Tuesday, 25 May 2010
Book Review: The Ballad of Halo Jones
The plot of the three books
Looking for an adventure, Halo Jones then joins the army – and this final book shines the most for me. It is a scathing attack on the inequality of war, the evil of it and how it can brainwash the soldier, and make them unfit for normal life. In a few pages we can sweep the galaxy, or focus on the significance (or not) of one battleground and one fallen enemy. As we begin to respond to the ideas here, it evokes disturbing and uncomfortable images from today’s wars – what anguish should we feel over the need for our young men and women to go to war and to live that different kind of life – that “necessary evil”? Have we forgotten that these wars (necessary though they may be) have a devastating impact on the lives of the people of the countries where the fighting is going on? Finally (spoiler warning), the folly of war stares at us from the final pages, when it is deemed that the war was carried out in an illegal way. What was all the fighting for after all? It should never have been allowed. What does man fight man for anyway? What purpose does it serve?
Letting the book raise some questions
Told in short black-and-white chapters, this impressive tale starts slowly but ends up with some short episodes that say more than whole novels, in terms of the way they mimic the real world and confront us. How can we escape a mindset of materialism and avoid settling for the entertainment culture that surrounds us? Is that what life is really about? And can we really have control of our lives, in the final analysis, or are there limits we come up against?
Where do we look for real freedom, and the ability to live full lives of purpose and joy?
On that last one: I know to whom I am looking – the one who came to offer just this to us if we accept his verdict on our lives and turn to follow Him. Receiving what Jesus offers does not require being brainwashed, made to "fit in" to an oppressive system, or dragged through hell, or in fact any kind of work on our part. His gift to us of reconciliation with God is free, and simply must be accepted.
But knowing Him and all he's done changes us, and soon we will be unhappy with the way we have been living, we will be stretched mentally, emotionally and physically to live the kind of full life of joy and hard work and pain and love that Jesus lived. To live in community, doing the will of the one who rules this world and who actually does know best for us - and cared enough to come to die for us. Let's not throw our brains away and live passively following the world. Let's engage with him and what he is really offering us. Let's go to the places Jesus wants us to go to.