Thursday, July 1, 2010
Two years after its initial debut, Child 44 reads as an even more relevant reminder that Aldous Huxley was right: "Hell isn't merely paved with good intentions; it is walled and roofed with them. Yes, and furnished too."
As the United States continues to struggle with the concept of whether its people need to be compelled to do good for the good of the state, Child 44 gives readers a glimpse of the future by sharing the past of another country that once held such a pursuit in high regard. And it does so with frightening clarity.
Set in 1953 under the backdrop of Stalin's Soviet Union, Child 44 is frequently described as a serial killer thriller, mystery, or historical fiction since the murders are based on real Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, also known as the Rostov Ripper. However, those quick descriptors sometimes put off readers who don't appreciate those genres. It's a real mistake to miss this book for lack of an accurate moniker.
Why Child 44 Still Makes The Cut After Two Years.
It's not the serial killer story that keeps readers turning the page or thumbing the screen; it's the tenuous suspense created by following Leo Stepanovich Demidov, an MGB officer who eventually comes to terms with the knowledge that he has spent his entire life protecting the illusion of a perfect society.
After all, in a country where everyone is provided health care, food, shelter, security; with everyone working for the good of the state; with everyone assigned jobs that they are the most capable to perform; there can be no crime. Even the mere suspicion of believing anything contrary to the idea of utopia — including a murder by anyone other than someone mentally deficient — can cost you, your friends, and your family their lives.
The rules are simple enough. The only crime worth pursuing is espionage. And if you are suspected, a case file will be opened. If there is a case file open, you are guilty. And if you are guilty, anyone associated with you is a possible suspect.
For Leo Demidov, this is how he vested his life with the power to denounce, torture, and execute thousands of people who are unwilling or unable to maintain the charade. Their crimes are disgraceful. The veterinarian who treats the dog of a Western embassy employee. The woman who accepts an unsanctioned gift of literature. The family who suspects their son was murdered.
They must all be guilty against the infallibility of the state. If not, there is little left to conclude other than that people being protected by the state are thugs, villains, and killers who everyone pretends do not exist, despite the worst of them being entitled and empowered by the state.
Written by Tom Rob Smith, a 2001 Cambridge graduate and working screenwriter, Child 44 continues to earn awards and has already captured the attention of visionary filmmaker Ridley Scott. It was optioned before the book even hit the shelves.
Originally, Child 44 was anticipated to be complete and released in 2010 with Scott directing. But given his long list of projects "in development," it is anybody's guess where Child 44 might fit. Sooner would possibly provide a lift for the sequel, which is frequently described as less suspenseful.
Child 44 Earns A 9.5 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
Overall, Child 44 is near flawless. And while some readers might be taken aback by the plot twist toward the end, the minor distraction does little to curb the haunting power of how easily tyranny can denounce anyone for what they say. And what makes that especially chilling in the United States nowadays is that denouncements seem to be occurring with steady regularity.
The book was recently discounted Child 44 on Amazon. The audio version of Child 44 is read by Dennis Boutsikaris, who does the story outstanding justice by enhancing every line with engaging inflections. You can also find Tom Rob Smith on Facebook. You can find it for iBooks too.