Book Review: Swiftly Sharpens the Fang: A Brutal Tale of Racism, Radicalisaton, and Revenge by Stuart Kenyon, 293 pages, 2017, English language Kindle Edition, Distributed by Amazon Digital Services LLC, ASIN: B01MU2C1R5. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.
by Leigh Holland
This book is not for the faint of heart. Its title very accurately sums up the work. This book keeps you turning the pages. It feels like watching a horrible, avoidable train wreck in minute, gory detail while simultaneously riding the doomed train. You can’t look away; and you don’t want to.
The reader follows Joseph “Joe” Travis Jr. on his slow, dark descent into an ideology he once firmly opposed. Although the tale is told in third person narrative style, the author does an excellent job of conveying Joe’s deeper thoughts, feelings, and motivations. Joe is, in many ways, a Western “everyman”, an average working Joe. He is, in the early chapters, easy to connect to; just a law-abiding citizen, going about the depressing drudgery of the daily work grind. Although easy to connect to, ironically, Joe, like many modern Westerners, is not ‘connected’ to his fellow human beings. He is an only child whose only genuine relationships are with his alcoholic mother, whom he avoids; his young son whom he is rarely able to see; and his girlfriend, whom he avoids at times out of fear of disappointing her. Joe lacks a sense of “belonging”, or “acceptance”, to a cohesive family, or a wider group; making a loyal, tight-knit, lockstep fraternal organization extremely attractive. Surrounding characters are conveyed honestly, given uniqueness from each other, and the reader is shown Joe’s perspective and interpretation of their personalities and motives.
From the first page, the reader is grossed out by Joe’s excrement filled nightmares. These become a recurring symbol throughout the book. If you’re thinking, ‘Leigh, why would I want to read a book that has poop in it?’, I must protest- as time goes by, with enough exposure, it stops grossing you out. It becomes normal. Don’t let the first page turn you off to reading the rest of this excellent book. We in the West are fond of asking, “How could Nazis slaughter innocent people and feel nothing? How can terrorists today strap on a bomb and murder innocent people, including women and children?” We often protest, “I could never do something like that!” The truth is that the more we are exposed to the disgusting, the more normal disgusting becomes. Once something seems normal, it becomes allowable, possibly commonplace, and can eventually be encouraged by an entire society. And placed in the right circumstances, most people could, in fact, find themselves committing an act they never thought themselves capable of. These themes are very appropriate for our times and I recommend this book to any adult concerned about the rise of white nationalism and fascism in the Western nations, and the effects of terrorism across the globe. This gripping book forces us to reflect on whether we are making the best choices for dealing with our collective problems. This book has been referred to as Dystopian, however, I feel it is frighteningly closer to our current reality than 1984 ever was.
I loved this book. I felt a surprising range of emotions regarding both the characters and the wider world we live in today. I often paused to reflect on my own feelings about the topics raised, learning more about myself and my own views in the process. I was thrust into a fictional account of a journey that has been real for someone, somewhere. The author did a great deal of research on the topic of radicalization; it shines through. If you’re looking for a feel-good book to relax with in the bubble bath, this isn’t it. But if you want a serious, engaging Dystopian read that you can’t put down, this is the book for you.
You can find this book along with Stuart Kenyon’s other works at Stuart Kenyon on Amazon.