Beasts Of No Nation

If a book will be adapted into a movie, I’d rather read the book first. The author has more freedom and control over the story, he/she can take the readers on several twists and turns, movies on the other hand are trickier . I made the mistake of watching the movie Beasts of No Nation directed by Cary Fukunaga before reading the book written by Uzodinma Iweala with the same title. It was not my worst read but compared to the movie it was a bit disappointing.

Some reviews criticized Uzodinma’s choice of narration and language, it was almost pidgin-like but in a way a child would speak, that’s because it was narrated from a child’s point of view. Listening to it wasn’t so bad but reading it required some patience, especially if you’re not Nigerian or familiar with Pidgin English. For a debut novel it was okay.
 He tells Agu’s story, a boy from an unnamed West-African country instructed to run into the bush by his dad who is about to get killed. He runs as far as his little legs can carry, running right into the arms of the enemy. Forced to choose between death and joining an army of rebel child soldiers led by a psychotic commandant. He picks the latter, a choice that will forever haunt him.

He and the other child soldiers are trained by the commandant to kill. Killing becomes synonymous to falling in love “You cannot be thinking about it, you are just having to do it”. He tries to convince himself that it’s a soldier’s duty to kill. In his world you either kill or get killed.
 A child that had dreams of becoming a doctor is haunted by what he has done since the war began, he believes the devil will be scared of him when the war is over, if it’s ever over.
The commandant’s preferential treatment and fondness towards Agu came at a butt wrenching price. He was molested and made to do unspeakable things to/with the commandant. He had to be a good soldier because “Good soldier is following order anyway and it is order for you to let me touch you like this”. On the bright side his favors for the commandant aren’t overlooked. He is given extra benefits like food, protection and clothes.

Strika, Agu’s captor,hasn’t said a word since his parents massacre. He and Agu develop a budding friendship being the youngest soldiers. They share stories about the life they once had and future’s that might never occur over insects and lizards as dinner. They rise to being the commandant’s most trusted soldiers when he starts to lose his mind and thinks everyone is out to get him.

When they run out of food and places to loot, they are forced to eat whatever they can find. The soldiers reduce in number, what could almost pass for a dysfunctional army becomes a band of hungry kids led by a commandant who is gradually losing his sanity. They finally take the bold move and end their commandant’s life. They leave their trench of a camp in search for something better, everything is gone, consumed by war.

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Originally published at on January 29, 2016.

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