Burn Down the Sky by James Jaros
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Okay, at first I thought this book had potential. Emmy-winning author. Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian. I dig it. My kind of thing. Promising beginning. Lots of violence. I can deal with that. But then some creepy things start, well, creeping into the book. First, it’s the Wicca virus (nice title, eh?), where it’s spread by sexual transmission, but then eventually pretty much everyone is infected or a carrier – except young girls who have not yet menstruated, and they are not infected for one year, 365 days, after they first begin to do so, at which point they become infected and for all intents and purposes, become disposable. Which means, they’re the only females on earth that horny men can safely have sex with – 11 and 12 year old girls. Think about that for a minute. Then start thinking about the premise of this book. Yeah.
So, marauders go out to attack different camps, violently, and steal their young girls, and in this southern region based in old Knoxville, take them back to a freakish religious cult called the Army of God, which is armed, powerful, and made up of pedophiliac killers. This happens to a woman named Jessie, whose young daughter is stolen in a raid that kills over 100 of her colleagues. She and her daughter, Bliss, start out tracking this group, just the two of them, against well armed marauders, but they end up joining forces with some other people in their situation and start looking for this fortress.
The things that started disturbing me about this book, though, were the descriptions of the young girls and their bodies and what the dirty old men did to them. Vivid descriptions. Jessie’s daughter, Ananda, lived in fear of getting her first period because then she would be married off to a dirty old man, get impregnated immediately, hopefully give birth to a female child, that they could bring up for more sexual slavery – a boy child would be sold off – and after 365 days, she would disappear, permanently. It happens to all of the girls. There is torture. If you talk back, they wash you eyes out with lye to blind you to teach you a lesson. If you are too resistant, they say you’re in league with the devil, maybe even a witch, and burn you alive at the stake and make all of the girls watch.
Meanwhile, all of the girls have to strip, be washed, especially between their legs and buttocks, cleaned, changed. Ananda is forced to live with the fortress leader and his Nazi-like female companion, sleeping on the floor outside their door. He makes her take her top off and get a doll and practice nursing with it, so he can see her “light colored” nipples, multiple times. We’re given multiple descriptions of her pubic hair, size, shape, thickness. We see other naked young girls through her eyes. What this book eventually, sneakily becomes is not a dystopian sci fi novel, but child porn mixed in with some child torture – kiddie porn. It’s fucking disgusting. I have no idea if this is even legal. I guess if you can sell de Sade, you can sell this, but it’s beyond me why you would market child porn as sci fi and expect people to be okay with this. I found it disturbing, disgusting, repulsive, and appalling, and while part of me admired his writing skills, cause Jaros is a good writer, I was far more put off with the subject material and felt dirty after reading passages of this book. I’ve actually read worse, like when I read The Turner Diaries, but this isn’t a controversial underground white supremacist novel that inspired the greatest act of domestic terrorism in American history. This atrocity is on any sci fi bookshelf in America and that’s disturbing to me. Any 12-year-old kid could pick this up – and be scarred by it. As a writer myself, I’ve never advocated censorship and I’m still not sure I do, but this book belongs on the top shelf, or on its own shelf, or in a glass case – I’m not sure what the answer is, but it’s R to X rated and I don’t think 10 and 12 year old kids should be reading it unsupervised.
This book had a lot of potential and part of me is sorry I’m not going to find out what happens to the family, but I’m not going to subject myself to more and more child torture and child porn to find out. I’m not willing to sell my soul for so little in return. Even though the subject matter merits one star, the writing and originality of the book merits more, so I’m giving it two stars, reluctantly, with the provision that caution should be exercised by any and all who read it, knowing its subject matter is controversial. Therefore, two stars and not recommended.