Paperback: Flight, by Sherman Alexie

Harvill Secker £12.99
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The Independent Culture

Sherman Alexie's short stories are very readable: clever, witty and frequently poignant. This novel is occasionally clever, but reading it feels like being caught in the manic gaze of a writer who is up to his neck in something that he can't conclude.

Zits is a Seattle teenager who is unable to settle with foster parents and is frequently in trouble with the police. He is befriended by a teenager called Justice who gives him some guns, then he goes to a bank and begins blasting at the customers, until he is eventually shot in the head himself. Instead of dying, he wakes in the body of a 1970s FBI agent, a man who has to do "evil things" in order to fight evil. Zits then passes through several more incarnations before finally landing back in Seattle with a better understanding of why people hate one another.

Remove the graphic violence from this tale and you are left with an ugly children's story; not that you would be left with much of a story at all. Of the book's faults perhaps its worst is its brevity. Flight reads like an author on the run.

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