Readers Indigestion – Almost Dead

Whoa. What am I doing here?

Normally Readers Indigestion is Nathan’s post, but with the new direction of TUG cross posting is going to become more common. Don’t be too surprised if one day you see Nathan posting in a Zero Lives Left or something like that. If you don’t read the video game section of TUG, I am Justin, the egotistical douchebag who reviews, rants and raves about video games. I read occasionally, not as much as I wish I did, but hopefully this is the first of many Readers Indigestion’s for me. I just need to learn to spend a lot of time wallowing around in my own filth could be better spent picking up a good book and reading!

I’m not going to go into nearly as much detail as Nathan does here, but I still want to talk, now and again, about books I’ve read that were good enough to warrant recommendation. I’m, like Nathan, a huge Poe fan and anything dark and macabre is just an absolute treat to me. I also don’t really like Sci-Fi as a genre and much prefer to fall into fantasy. Today I am not here to talk about Sci-Fi, fantasy or Poe– I am here to talk instead about a book that has a subject that not many people would think you could make a comedy about.

A dark comedy about suicide bombing.

Now hear me out here, this is a very different take on putting the humour in suicide bombing than you’d expect. There is a film called Four Lions that also is a dark comedy about suicide bombing, it decides to take the ideologies and faith that these people have and show just how far some of them are willing to go to achieve it. The real comedy comes in when 75% of the group in Four Lions are complete idiots. The dark comes in at the end when their world comes crashing down and it’s shown to the audience that real people die for, what the director and writer say, are stupid reasons.

The book Almost Dead, written by Assaf Gavron, doesn’t go the same route as Four Lions. It doesn’t focus on the idiocy of people, but rather gets its humour from general observations on the world around the main character and through the inner monologue of the character himself. The humour comes from extremely realistic conversations between a bunch of characters who, at times, have an issue with talking to one another. Not because they don’t like each other, but because the main character has such a rigid outlook and voice that you can’t help but enjoy having him pick apart everyone he has a conversation with.

The book follows two characters, Eitan ‘Croc’ Einoch and Fahmi Sabih. Usually when you read you get one chapter of Croc and then one chapter of Fahmi. This is really nice because it gives a nice break between each and both characters have an extremely different voice. Even though Croc is the ‘main’ character and the one you’ll connect with more, Fahmi’s story is interesting because it involves him being a coma narrating back on the situations that got him here, not to mention that he is a suicide bomber himself. Croc is just an ordinary guy who has an ordinary job all about time and numbers, at least that’s what he says of it, and his life gets changed forever when he survives not one, not two, but three bombings.

The media begins to love him, praise him as the man that the terrorists can’t kill. A bit of a challenge for the book comes from my limited knowledge of Middle East culture and obviously this plays a big part in the whole ideology of the book. One is from Israel, Croc, and the other is from Palestine, Fahmi, both men give the voice of that mindset; at least to a extreme side in some cases. However through the challenge I found myself following along because both Croc and Fahmi have definite tone to all of their language. This tone makes working through my limited knowledge of their cultures easier and doesn’t make me feel alienated as a reader.

Anyways, Croc becomes a ‘hero’ of sorts and, of course, this pisses of the bombers and try and target him. Taking out the untouchable symbol of hope (that Croc doesn’t really want to be) is a definite way to lower the moral of your enemy, after all. The interesting part is that both men narrate back, Fahmi more so obviously than Croc, but both men do it and both speak of a great event that happens later in the book that changes both of them forever. It puts Fahmi in his coma and well… Croc is rather vague about what happens to him, which only makes one want to read more to find out his fate.

Croc is the character you’ll root for as you read because he’s more like most people who’ll read this book, but as you learn about Fahmi’s upbringing and past you can’t help but get a great deal of respect for him too. Both sides are shed with a good light and it really humanizes the whole thing, which only makes the whole truth behind the conflict in real life that much more depressing.

You’ll want to know what happens in the end because these are two good characters that you’ll learn to really enjoy getting to know. They have depth and are immensely flawed, just like the humans they are. Yes, this book is funny, I spent a lot of it laughing, but there are moments that will be really hard to read, the suicide bombings for example. The ending of the book itself was one of the bleakest I’ve read, I mean that of course in the biggest compliment I can give. After I finished the book and read the last page, saw the journey these two characters went through, I had to put the book down and just think about things.

I don’t like to promise things, but I promise that the last page of the book will stick with you. There’s just something about it, it’s written so well and it speaks to such a real moment that I can’t help but get chills thinking about it now. Yes, this is a sharp and witty book about suicide bombing, but it’ll kick your ass as you read through it.


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