Copyright: 2000


Age: Adult

Summary:

When a strange wanderer gives his life for a small girl, she escapes certain death on his motorcycle, adopts his name, Kino, and takes up his occupation: traveling the world - only to find it a gruesome, twisted, and violent place.

Sexuality: 3

A girl's thighs are mentioned many times throughout the book. She keeps her weapons strapped to her thighs, she has slim thighs, etc.
A man and his lover, who, due to advanced technology, can hear each other's thoughts and feelings, move in together and are said to achieve true "oneness."
A man asks a girl to move in with him. A girl is asked later whether she and the man fell in love with each other a little. (She denies it.)
A man's facial expression is described as "naked anguish."
A bare-chested man is described as having many muscles.
It is unclear as to whether a girl is showing off her chest or not to clarify when she is mistaken for a boy.
A man explains that when people can fulfill one wish, they usually choose to marry the most beautiful, richest woman in the land.
Men are said to look at a girl with vulgar grins. (But it appears to be more bloodthirsty-oriented than sexual.)
A girl is asked if she will use her cute face as a weapon, but is told not many fighters go for "her type" because she is too small.
A man who is excited about killing a girl with an advanced weapon does a gyrating dance with his hips.
A girl is told not to go off with a young man because people would say she went off with strange men.

Violence: 10

The book, the most violent one that the critic ever fully read all the way through, is full of (almost every page) graphic violence, often against innocent, defenseless, or ignorant people.

A girl mentions that she sometimes has to kill people.
A girl talks about an operation she is to have where they open up her head and "take the child out."
A man worries about being killed.
A man attempts to kill his daughter with a carving knife. A man jumps in front of the child and the father stabs him instead. It catches the man in the chest, slides into his body, and sticks there. When the father tries to pull the knife out, it won't budge. The hilt is covered in blood and his wife helps him pull it out. There is mention of the sound of metal on bone as it slowly comes out of the body. In the end, it comes out with a "sucking sound" that a girl says she can still hear in her nightmares. Her father then comes at her again with a bloody hand and knife.
A girl shoots a tree limb above a highway man's head to knock him out.
People who feel each other's pain, go mad over the feelings of a man who dies in an accident.
An evil king kills farmers by binding their legs and hands and dropping them on their heads in the middle of the road. He makes their families watch and then executes them too.
People who take over after killing their king, make new laws. Whenever someone disagrees, they execute them. Eventually 13,604 innocent people die in one village until only one man is left. The one man left tries to threaten a girl with a gun, but the chamber is empty. It is uncertain whether he commits suicide or not.
A girl sees miles of dead bodies, parts of dead bodies, piles of hands, and rows of torsos. It is joked that the village she is entering eats people. (They don't.) Instead, this village kills more primitive people for sport, entirely to release testosterone and aggression. They dump the dead bodies in a certain place.
People are shot down in a "blossom of crimson." Men in flying ships mercilessly shoot down women in children. Bodies are said to nearly be torn in two. The water is described as being red with blood. One victim's ax hits a gunner's arm, but he is gunned down. There is a mountain of corpses left over that drips blood. The warring parties weigh the bodies and pieces of bodies to see who is the victor.
A girl watches a war video where men scream, a bullet catches one in the chest, and tears his body in two.
A woman says her sons were shot by a sniper and blown to pieces. Therefore she condones slaughter innocents in a primitive village so that no more mothers will lose their sons.
Villagers try to take revenge and threaten to cut a girl to pieces, torture her, and watch her die to satisfy their anger. The girl shoots the man attacking her. His blood is said to ooze from his chin to "satisfy a thirsty earth that swallows up his blood."
A village's rules are that all must fight and kill others in a game to become a citizen. They force people into playing their "game."
Villagers are worried about watching fighting because of stray bullets.
Helmets remind a girl of polished skulls.
A married couple are forced to fight each other in a coliseum. The man has mercy on his wife and lets her go, but is killed in the next round by a different opponent.
A king is said to have been killed by his son.
A girl threatens a man bent on attacking her by shooting into the air.
A man jumps at a girl's throat.
A girl presses the muzzle of a gun into a man's head.
A girl is told to maim her first opponent a little.
Citizens get revved up and call for blood in a coliseum.
A man throws an iron ball at a girl
A man throws metal boomerang scales at a girl. The girl shoots him, it hits the metal scale, the bullet drives the scale into his belly, he gives a horrid cry, his mouth opens, he gasps for air, and sways. A girl shoots him again in the right thigh, he falls, and dies.
A musician has a horn-like weapon. When he is disarmed, he asks for a girl to kill him. Everyone around them, watching the fight, chants, "Kill him!" The man asks the girl's name. When she tells him, he says, "A good name. I'll remember it in hell."
A new queen is said to have killed herself.
A man is knocked unconscious.
A girl throws a rock at a woman. It connects "sickeningly." There is a splash of blood on the face.
A girl shoots three shots into a woman's shoulder. Blood oozes.
A girl shoots a gun at a young man eight times, but he deflects it with his sword.
A young man slices a girl on the wrist with a sword. (It is not fatal)
A girl hits a young man with the heel of her palm to his temple.
A girl shoots an explosive bullet into a man's head. It is said to pierce facial skin, tear muscle, shatter his skull, and make his head explode. Everyone is said to be showered with body parts and body debris and to wear his blood. A man, who comes up later to check out the scene, walks on a carpet that "squishes" with blood.
A man stabs another man in the shoulder.
A man cuts a long slash in another man's face with a sword.

Language: 5

"Da-- it."
"Damned."
"Crap"
God's Name in vain twice. At one point, a young man says, "My G--." A girl replies, "I am no one's God."
"Thank God" once, with no intention of actually being grateful to the Lord.
A young girl's name means "flower," but is phonetically similar to an insult. Children tease her for this.
"Stupid child"
"Filthy traveler"
"Idiot"
"Imbecile"
"Dirtball"
"Sucker"
"Suck-up"
"Derelict"
"Darn"
"Hellish"
"For Goodness' sake."
A man asks a girl's name. When she tells him, he says, "A good name. I'll remember it in hell."
A motorcycle that talks says, "Bite me" to a dog.

Christian Principles: None

In the preface of the book, we immediately read of Kino's philosophy: "I sometimes wonder if I'm really just a terrible person. Sometimes I feel like I am." She thinks she is a terrible person because she can't change things. Her talking motorcycle chastises her by saying, "How can you be terrible if you feel other people's pain? Terrible people don't feel other people's pain." Which makes it seem like good people are not defined by being sinless. We, as Christians, are all wicked through and through. Instead, in the book, it is expressed that empathy is all that is required to make one a good person. Kino believes she does some good in her travels, even though she sees a lot of death and often has to kill people. But she says the more she travels, the more she falls in love with the beautiful world. This book is the first in a series called, "The Beautiful World."

This, in and of itself, is dumbfounding to the critic. The "beautiful world" Kino visits is full of the most warped, maniacal, bloodthirsty killers that it's not even realistic. The book portrays the entire world as a violent, cruel, merciless place. Almost every village Kino visits is full of unnaturally depraved human beings. Innocent blood is shed almost every other page, and Kino has to kill some herself to escape the wickedness. And yet, she thinks the world is beautiful?

In a dark, pseudo-philosophical way, the book makes an artistic study of violence, killing off people in more creative ways than the critic could think up in a lifetime: dropping people on their heads, creating boomerang metal scales, horns that shoot things, and violent war games. Thousands upon thousands of people die for no reason. Often times lessons are trying to be portrayed: democracy versus totalitarianism, for instance, but more often than not, the violence is completely unnecessary ("Fight and kill everyone we throw you in an arena with so you can become a member of our village." or "Our daughter refuses the surgery that takes 'the child' out of her. We will immediately kill her on the spot with a butcher knife.")

The book begins, right off the bat, with Kino's parents wanting to brutally kill her. With no thought or love for her whatsoever, they angrily strike out. When a mysterious stranger jumps in the path, her father twists the knife to stab him instead and claimed it was an accident. Both parents lean over the stranger, having to use all their strength to pull the bloody butcher knife out, just to immediately turn it on their daughter once again. Kino later has to fight a blond woman for citizenship in a dirty city. The blond wants citizenship to adopt a child but when Kino defeats her, throwing a rock into her face and shooting her in the shoulder three times, she thinks it's cute and asks if she can adopt Kino as well. When has violence become cute? When is a young girl who's exposed to evil enough to be independent, hardened, and deft with a gun adorable? The whole book glorifies violence. Kino doesn't use violence unless it's absolutely necessary, but that doesn't stop her from continuing to travel and thinking the bloodthirsty world is "beautiful." She claims she travels to find a way out of her own confusion and that she has the power to stop so she'll keep going, but fact is, she's some unidentifiable age older than twelve, she's completely on her own with no respect for authority and no desire to form any relationships as well as be under anyone's guidance, as well as being a tough, feminist character who defeats every man in her path. Once again, the book glorifies complete independence and battle-savvy skills in a girl who may not even be in her teens yet.

People are said to evolve by using a medicine to hear each other's thoughts. Hearing each other's thoughts and feelings is said to have a detrimental affect. Lovers leave each other because they heard the unkind thoughts of those they care about. A man in a car accident lets his painful and terrified feelings leak into everyone's minds, traumatizing them.

Again, a pseudo-intellectual example is described as three old men on a railroad track. One man has been laying down tracks for decades. The other has been polishing tracks for decades. The third has been picking up tracks for decades. Together, they keep each other in business for decades. Each mentions that they needed money for their families, who are probably grown and/or dead by now. None express any concern in the fact that they have kept up the same tedious work for so many years, or that they have missed out on their families' entire lives. The example appears just about meaningless to the critic, who once again is determined to believe the book is trying to be artistic and philosophical, but failing miserably. The only thing that seems to be surmised from such a tale is that our lives are just one meaningless waste of redoing what others mess up for us and that even our best work is meaningless as well.

An entire chapter is devoted to a city of people that fight against another people group because they have different religions, customs, and dialects. Since they have killed so many of their people in this war over time, they instead came to a solution that they all agreed on. They take a different village, filled with a more primitive people, draw a line down the middle, get into ships that float high above the people, and mercilessly gun down every living person in an allotted time. This is said to be "peace" and a "game" and not a single person cares about those they are slaughtering. Even Kino, who disagrees with this, does nothing. Instead of risking her life for these people because it would be the right thing to do and might be an example to such a sordid group, she watches every bit of it, not even turning her head away, and merely tries to talk to a museum curator about it later. The museum curator herself lost two sons in the war and thinks the "Testosterone Game" of brutally murdering the more primitive people is a wonderful solution. She says, "This is a cost of peace. There has to be some sacrifice or true peace is never reached. We must not allow that sacrifice to be our children." Kino simply leaves that village after three days, her designated time to stay in one place. As she is leaving, some furious members of the slaughtered people group try to kill her simply to appease their own rage. Kino shoots and kills one of them. This signifies that all of them are just as wicked: the city and the primitive people. But one can't help but think it ironic that Kino ends up killing a man of their tribe as well. The people group then leave a gift on the dead man for his "spirit."

A man, who asks to be killed, asks Kino's name. When she tells him, he says, "A good name. I'll remember it in hell."

This is a book that, had I not been asked to review it, I would have just rejected right off the bat. Be warned whenever a book has so much seemingly senseless violence that appears artistically and imaginatively brutal, with the premise of having philosophical lessons that you have to search very hard to find, let alone agree with.

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