Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It's hard to outdo the likes of "1984" when it comes to expressing a true sense of the fear under which people live when their government is committed to their absolute control. The sheer humanity that forces Leo Demidov to stay on the case of these murdered children, even in a society that sees murder not as an individual horror, but as a rejection of that society's principles -- making investigation risky for those who would bring wrongdoers to justice -- is the most powerful force in the story. From beginning to end, the story is on one level a terrific thriller. However, on a more important level, the story shows how pernicious and deadly a tool absolute power can be, especially when that power pretends to want to help everyone.
I find an interesting parallel between the paralysis of the Russians under Stalin and the paralysis of the American people. While the Russians had a legitimate fear of exposure and death keeping them from pursuing meaningful social action, far too many of us do far too little to bring change around us. We are not held in place by the fear of arrest, though -- we are held in place by the forces of entertainment and materialism. Luckily, there is a difference. While the Russians had to wait for Stalin to die for things to (somewhat) improve, all we have to do is turn off the television, stay out of the mall and find a way to make the people and places around us better. Reading about the terrible existence of the Soviet Union under Stalin makes me glad to have the choices I do, and makes me resolve to do a better job with the time that I have.
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