Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Homelanders

Andrew Klavan wanted to write a series of books of the sort he would have enjoyed when young. His intended audience was boys between 12 and 16, but he has found a much wider one, including me. The second of four books in "The Homelanders" series has just been published and I am already within a few pages of the end. They have much the same appeal as the Thirty Nine Steps or North by Northwest: a hero who is being pursued by everyone, alone and thrown back on his own resources. The books are suspenseful and exciting.

Klavan was interviewed by John Miller at NRO. The interview is here. Toward the end he explained part of his motive:
[W]e've allowed our kids...to forget that...there's a reason we believe in liberty. There's a reason we believe in small government. There's a reason we believe in checks and balances, and a reason too that we believe in faith...And these things can be taught again...but we're gonna have to do it. It's not gonna just happen.
He is doing a part of that with these books. The first in the series was The Last Thing I Remember. The one just out is The Long Way Home. The books constitute a continuing story so they should be read in order.

A former [retired] high school social studies teacher, I was particularly interested in Klavan's account [in the second book, pp. 47-48] of his protagonist, Charlie West's, classroom disagreement with a teacher:
.... This was another thing that always annoyed me about Mr. Sherman. When you argued with him, he didn't exactly use facts and logic. He just tried to make fun of you and change the subject and tangle you up with words so you looked bad or the class laughed at you and you got flustered and couldn't make your point. And another thing that annoyed me was that a lot of times it worked.

I glanced around at the rest of the students. They were all laughing at Mr. Sherman's zombie routine. Even Rick Donnelly, one of my best friends, was laughing over at his desk near the window. I knew Rick agreed with me about Mr. Sherman. He thought this was a great country and even wanted to go into politics when he grew up. But he was the kind of guy who never argued with teachers, who was always trying to please them and say what they wanted to hear so he would get good grades. Maybe that's how you get to be a politician.

"So what part of the Declaration don't you agree with?" I asked Mr. Sherman.

Sherman stopped waving his arms around. He smiled. "Ah, my zombielike friend, that's exactly the wrong question. The question is: What part of it can you prove to be true? Prove that we're created equal. We don't look equal to me."

"That's not what it means. It means that we're created with equal rights:"

"Prove it, Charlie. You can't. It's just something Americans have come to believe, that's all. Other people believe other things. You can't even prove that we were created, that we have a Creator in the first place. It's just something you were told and so you believe it. Go on, Zombie Guy—prove it."

I opened my mouth to answer, but I couldn't think what to say. I didn't know exactly how you would prove something like that. Sherman made the class laugh at me again by opening his mouth and making stuttering sounds to imitate my confusion: "Uh, uh, uh!"

Then the bell rang. That was the end of class. ....
The books are published by Thomas Nelson, a Christian publishing house, and Charlie West is a believably portrayed Christian. Klavan has written thrillers for adults which might not be ideal for adolescents but these books are safe for just about anyone — and a good, compulsive, quick read too.

Update [2/9]: Another excerpt from The Long Way Home, this one illustrating how well Klavan writes action.

Andrew Klavan on The Long Way Home