At the conclusion of the book (Avast, spoilers lie ahead!) I found myself stunned and dismayed with the ending, and what it seems to suggest about human nature left unchecked at large scales. While I would not necessarily change it, I did find it an utterly bleak and dismal comment on what Adam Novy may be suggesting is the nature of power and the ultimate truth behind motivations in the human condition. I mean by this, that each of the characters in the book seems to have moved suddenly towards a partial, if not total reversal in the nature of their original goals and aims that they had at earlier points in the novel. Morgan: No longer worried so much of the revenge he would take on the RedBlacks for the death of his pets, but instead worried about the women in his life. And while I thought that the tutor’s corruption and descent into madness and murder over lust for Katherine was to be the most horrifying thing in this book for me, it is now Zvominir, who had for the earlier parts of the novel been fanatically focused upon protecting Morgan and giving up his power to others, who undergoes the most hideous transformation now, ultimately resulting in his actions causing the deaths of Ezekiel, The Judge, Katherine, and even his own son. I question if there is religious significance to the murder weapon (a pitchfork) in these scenes. The Judge, who had been depicted as an evil despot indulging in mass murder (which, he no doubt was) shifts marginally towards a sympathetic character before his death, and is tortured by Zvominir’s words to end his family line in a manner perhaps worse than the physical brutality he put others through. While we might argue that this is “just desserts” the writing humanizes him at his last moments.
I would now like to discuss the tremendous amount of doubt that I now feel is necessary for the book to be read with. I think the narrator, the untold “we”, is in fact the survivors of this calamity which has consumed the lives of every character in the book, save a handful. As far as I could tell, the only ones we have left standing are Zvominir and Jane (who’s last mention is her marriage to Ezekiel). Which of these two leaders is it then, who goes about creating the “gospel” that we have just finished reading?
I think that Jane is the orchestrator, or at least has a greater hand in the drafting of the book. Perhaps, driven mad by his filicide, Zvominir is ousted, or commits suicide. I still think it safe to say it is Jane, and not him, who writes or has this written. Regardless of his fate, I now wonder which parts of the book may or may not be grossly fabricated. For example, I wrote earlier in the blog about Billy’s death, and the inability for anyone to describe that it was loneliness that propelled his actions. Now, considering that Jane may be the author, I find I doubt that more than before. Perhaps Billy was vindictive in that moment, and his loneliness untrue? Maybe he was trying to mug them? If Jane had written the gospels, or narrated to her people (and her child, who also goes unmentioned for the rest of the book) then it might account for the books inability to describe the characters outside of the flat, almost robotic decision making processes that they go through.
“Endings needed to be sad in these conditions, for readers craved reality. Now, there aren’t illusions of deliverance in our future: we know we are doomed, so we use stories to deceive. We need relief, at the conclusion of the day, and too much truth but drives us deep into our beds. So let the truth be adjusted.” – pg.420
A final note, is if a sequel were drafted for this book, how much would or would not change. I find it possible that excepting several gender roles, it would be possible for a theoretical sequel of this book, to be nearly the same as this book. A father/mother and son/daughter in the slums of a destroyed, war-torn country, with a evil, murderous despot ruling over them or ruling the lands above where they hide. The child possessing a secret power, and the mother/father desperate to protect them. (Although, in this case Jane’s secret power is arson and guerilla brilliance.)
So, are we left only with Novy suggesting that the world works in cycles of violence, with no hope for our original aims? And is it the achieving of the power we do not have that will twist our aims, as inevitably as the tides, or cultural revolution?