COLOMBIANO: a sobering epic about the price children pay for the greed of those around them

Posted: December 10, 2019 in Uncategorized

The world is definitely a strange, often harsh place, and one only has to glimpse at the news headlines to come to terms with this fact. There is so much in our society that points to the fact that we are headed in a deeply disturbing direction, in our hunger for influence.  And while I do love a good fantasy epic that takes me to worlds populated with creatures of myth and magic, there is room upon my shelf for a sobering, gritty, heartfelt gut-punch of a novel every now and then.

The latest novel that had this kind of impact on me is the epic COLOMBIANO, written by Mr. Rusty Young, an Australian journalist with first-hand experience in the Colombian armed conflict of not too long ago.

The novel tells the story of Pedro  Guttierez, a character based upon children that the author interviewed. Pedro is 15 years old when the novel starts out, so he can be expected to have the hopes and dreams of 15-year-olds: he loves his family, he loves his girlfriend, and he is filled with youthful enthusiasm.

Then, things take a grim turn. After a gesture of benevolence to the Colombian Army, his father is executed by the Communist FARC guerilleros. What follows is a long, sprawling  story of Pedro’s self-imposed mission of avenging his father by finding and delivering justice to those he deems responsible, one by one.

Do not be mistaken: although the protagonist is a young adult, this is not a book that I would necessarily recommend to the YA age group. This book is raw. It is blisteringly realistic. It depicts the cruelty of men towards their peers without any punches pulled. And most of all, it shows us all a reality that we do not acknowledge enough, whether due to being unaware of it or to refusing to believe in its reality.

The novel depicts children being taught to fight, to bottle up their emotions, to become effective, cutting-edge killing machines. No shred of the sense of wide-eyed idealism that characterizes Pedro and his best friend Palillo is left when they get to training with the Autodefensas anti-communist death squads. Emotional attachments are forbidden to them, there is even a scene with a dog they had adopted as a sort of squad mascot that will tear readers apart.

The aspect in regard to which the novel shines the brightest is the evolution of Pedro’s psyche. Yes, the novel is a story about a nation going through turbulent times, and readers get to see all of that. There are violent fights between the Guerillas and Autodefensas, a lot of skulduggery inolving drug dealers, all signs of a society struggling with powerful demons. And seeing it all through the eyes of a young man on an epic quest for vengeance makes this amazing book so much more than a novel about  vengeance and war. It is, essentially, a novel about ideas, and their power to make or break both men and nations. It is a story of ideologies robbing children of their innocence and drenching their dreams in brutality. It is a story of love, intense love, even amidst the horrors of war. The love that Pedro and Camilla share, the love he  feels for his family, is the poignant emotional core of a story set in a brutal, unflinching world.  This is a great novel, for its resonant, timely, and heartfelt message, something we need more of today.  It is not for everyone, due to both its dimensions and the brutality of the world which it evokes, but those who read it will be rewarded with an excellent blend of thrills and depth, rarely found in fiction today.  This is one of the best sprawling epics I have ever read. Solid, solid 10 out of 5 for a masterpiece.

Mr. Young  was kind enough to send me a PDF copy of his novel for review purposes, but if these thoughts on this awesome book were not my own, I would not be doing it justice.

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