Sunday, June 24, 2007

Reading Binge: Pacific Rim, Part 2, or Flight by Sherman Alexie

I mentioned, in my last book post (here) that I had read 2 tomes in a lickedy-split zoom. The second book was born on the other side of the Pacific, up in Seattle. And it took me less than a day (2 R-ound trips on the subway) to zip through Sherman Alexie's Flight.

So I blurbed the new Alexie book when it first hit stores (and review sections) in late April.

I professed excitement, but I didn't rush out to read it. I like Sherman Alexie and appreciate his short stories (in the New Yorker and Ten Little Indians, among others), his films (Smoke Signals), his poetry, and his novels (Indian Killer, among others). He's a younger, hipper, funnier version of Louise Erdrich. And his occasional homoerotic subject matter predates Brokeback Mountain consciousness.

Anyway, the appearance of Flight at the local library offered me the opportunity to grab the book and, er take flight with it. Sorry, I couldn't resist.

In a nutshell, our main character, in a great opening salvo, introduces himself as "Zits". He is a troubled orphaned Native American teenager in Seattle, with anger and abandonment issues. You can read the opening lines (and chapter) here.

An encounter in a bank heist gone wrong affords Zits' persona to travel in time (seemingly) backwards, Hopping into the bodies of individuals on the periphery of American Indian
historical significance.

He switches sides too, from FBI agent to Sioux at Little Big Horn to cavalry officer on the frontier, to early Native American facing the White Man, and back to modern Seattle.

The brisk narrative flies by as Zits learns and grows through his experience with different perspectives.

In the end, he emerges transformed by his flight through time. The science fiction aspect is nicely downplayed and there's a thin veneer separating the question as to if the journey was supernatural or imagined internally.

The nice thing is that the question is made irrelevant as we see a change that occurs. It is not the cause but the effect. The journey is important but the final destination is the crux of the narrative.

I completed this on four subway rides. Alexie is a master storyteller and he is at the top of his economic game here. Despite the speed of the story, the reader gets to know the protagonist quickly and his transformation made him, at least to me, a likable presence in the book.

I would definitely recommend this as a powerful, yet quick, journey through the mind of one of America's premier storytellers.

Alexie's website, here, is a great resource, including links to reviews and a blog of his current book tour.

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