After reading Illusions: Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah and being so in love with the characters that I had to reach out to the author, I was somewhat disappointed by One. It got off to a strong start, being about the choices we make and the roads we take because of them, depicted by the narrator exploring his alternative lives. But in its second half the book died off and the dialogue just didn’t work, with characters over-explaining their situation and acting in a way that seemed unnatural.
I didn’t hate the book, but since I prefer not to review of a book unless I loved it, I’ll leave it at that. I will, however, share a conversation in the first half of the book with Richard and an alternate self (also named Richard) who is a lieutenant in the Air Force. Here, Richard is explaining to his alternate self why everything he believes about “fighting for his country” is a lie. Today is ANZAC Day and I have been thinking about it quite a bit.
“They lead you on: Are you good enough? Are you tough enough? They praise you: Elite! Top gun! They drape you in flags, pin you with wings on your pocket, bars on your shoulders, bright-ribbon medals for doing just as you are told by the ones who pull your strings.
“There are no-truth-in-advertising rules for recruiting posters. The pictures show jets. They don’t say ‘By the way, if you’re not killed by flying this airplane, you’ll die on the cross of your personal responsibility for the people you kill with it’.
“This is not dumb others, Richard, this is you, eating the bait and proud of it. Proud as a grand free marlin in your handsome blue uniform, hooked on this airplane, hauled by the line toward your own death, your own grateful proud honourable patriotic pointless stupid death.”
“And the United States won’t care, and the Air Force won’t care, and the general who gives the orders won’t care, either. The only one who is ever going to care that you killed the people you’re going to kill is you. You and them and their families. Some glory, Richard…”
What a shame we can’t come up with a better way to solve worldwide problems than to use innocent people as pawns, with the end goal being “Let’s just hope our nation’s death tally is lower than your nation’s death tally”, and worse, labelling these deaths as “The ultimate sacrifice.” It’s not a sacrifice anyone should have to make, ever. It’s mass murder. It’s an abhorrent lack of respect by our leaders for humanity followed by an insane glorification of it, and I do agree with Richard – we buy the lies. You’d think our leaders could come up with a better route to peace than senseless killing.
Aside from little gems such as that one, the book fell a little flat for me. I still adore Richard Bach and hope that other people who read this book feel differently. If you haven’t read any of Richard’s work, make sure you read Illusions first. You’ll forgive him for just about anything after that.