Friday, November 2, 2012

Review: "As God Commands" by Niccolo Ammaniti

I am glad to say that Niccolo Ammaniti is just as good at bigger books as he is at slim ones, maybe even better. I have been enamored with Ammaniti since reading his breakthrough hit, I’m Not Scared early last year, and with reading As God Commands, I think it is safe to say that he is one of my favorite writers on any continent. He blends high-octane tension that moves the book along at lightening speed, but never at the exclusion of real emotion and the feeling that what is happening is important and urgent. The way he writes about children is also very special, accurately portraying adolescent boys on the cusp of adulthood being forced into the sometimes violent and cruel world of the grownups around them, who just so happen to have the tendency to be bullies and sociopaths. His novels capture that feeling well, and it makes for great fiction. In I’m Not Scared, the main character had to come to terms with world that didn’t always protect the innocent and weak, in Me and You, the main character had to come to terms with his own selfish isolation at the expense of his older sister, and in As God Commands, a very similar young boy has to find out in the harshest of ways how the hands of fate can cut deep and without remorse of malice. Young Cristiano lives with his father, a somewhat reformed skinhead who yearns for something more, although he does not know what that is. His two friends Danilo and Quattro Formaggi (a play on the Italian word for pizza) decided to rob an ATM. Each of these friends brings different needs to this risky task. Danilo wants to use the money to buy a boutique to get his ex-wife back after he accidently killed their infant daughter. Formaggi is the town’s undesirable, walking with a limp and obsessed with a certain porno movie, wants to find someone who looks just like the actress in said movie. All the while Cristiano is navigating his way through the barren wasteland of his small town life, looking for something that is slightly better than not living at all, finding only trouble in the form of a cool bully at school and two girls he is in love with showing little interest in him. All four see this robbery as a way to change who they are and become something more than what they have been labeled in this small community. But on the night of the robbery, with possibly the worst rainstorm I have read in fiction, things go horribly awry as fates entangle one another, leading some on the path toward despair, others on a possible path of redemption. This book is never boring, even when it slows down once everything that happens that night as hit the fan. As always with Ammaniti, the book ends on an ambiguous note as to whether the main character is going down the right path, but sometimes that slim chance is just as sweet as the real thing.
Rating: 5/5

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