Monday, May 01, 2006

Review: Manassas

I just finished Manassas, by James Reasoner. The book takes place in the Civil War era, and is physically located kinda sorta near where I live.

I have to admit, when I picked up the book I was expecting lots of bloody battle scenes, and gobs of details about which general outflanked which other general. Thankfully, I was mistaken. Manassas is a historical fiction book - a good o'l fashion story.

As stories go, it's a good one. It definetly had a quality about it in that didn't go out of it's way to wrap things up in nice and neat bundles. There are quite a few threads the author simply lets trail off, and leaves the reader to play with, rather than attempt to wrap things up in a nice hollywood ending.

One aspect of the book that I really liked was that it was written with the characters having a Southern point of view. That means they spend a good portion of the book bashing Yankees (like me). The author tries to give you a sense as to why the South was so angry at the North. There are essentially two issues presented.

The first is that of control - the South didn't like the idea of being pushed around by the North. This is certainly a sentiment I can appreciate.

The second issue, and the one that may really be driving the first, was that of slavery. This I found especially interesting. The notion that you can have such a large group of people look at slavery as a normal, if not G-d given right, is stunning to me. Sure, your going to find wackjobs that hold all sorts of odd ball positions - but half our country?

At one point, one of the characters, a minister plainly explains why slavery is OK. The proof is as follows:

The bible says that Man has dominion over all animals. Black people are animals. Therefore, Man (white Christian males) have dominion over blacks. Hence, slavery isn't just a good idea, it's biblicly mandated.

To deny this, the character explains, is to deny the bible. Therefore, if you are against slavery, you are against the bible, G-d and all that is morally right.

Two things struck me about this argument. First, I think cases like this are still being made. Do you believe in evolution? Then you are denying the bible, G-d, and all that is morally right.

Secondly, I have to wonder, what is our slavery? You know, the issue that is so heinous, yet it appears perfectly logical to us. Is it abortion? Our refusal to allow same sex marriges? How about vegetarianism? 100 years from now will some one be reading a book (or more likely, the book will be directly connected the cerebral cortex - reading will be so y2k) about what animals we were?

Overall, I enjoyed the book. As civil war books go, it had enough non-standard elements to make it worth listening to. I give it a 8.2/10 for being a surprising story set in an intruiging time.


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