This is a very important book, though not an easy one to read. Ishmael's style leaves a lot to be desired, and he is especially weak, I feel, when he tries to be philosophical. But he makes up for that with the descriptions of war, to the depravity which human beings can descend to. The fact that he does this with a child's candour, unemotionally, makes it even more disturbing.
Children can be easily moulded. And cruelty comes easily to children, because they do not think of it as "cruel" in the adult sense. These child soldiers bury men alive with the same enthusiasm and curiosity as a child pulling wings off a butterfly and watching it squirm. Values such as the difference between "kindness" and "cruelty" have to be taught to children-but these boy soldiers of Sierra Leone, most of whom have seen their family and friends massacred mercilessly, have been fed only drugs and hatred. War is their religion, and their gods are Rambo and Shwarznegger.
I salute Ishmael for the courage to come out of it. At the same time, I weep for the thousands who did not.