am 4. April 2001
We read 'After The First Death' as our first book in our English course and when I read the first few lines on the back of the book I thought 'Wow. A hijacking drama. Another one... As described in thousands of other films and books. Probably full of blood, splatter and stupid action.' But anyway I had to read it. And now I am glad that I had to. Because this book is different - in so many ways. The first chapter is about Ben, the son of a general. The beginning looks more like a family drama and there are only very few hints on the main event: a schoolbus is hijacked by a small group of terrorists, among them a young boy named Miro. The children's only hope seems to be Kate, the bus driver. A twisting story starts, full of suspense, where finally Ben is involved in. I personally think the book is written in a great way. Cormier uses different point of views and the reader gets to know every most intimate thought at the right time. There are scenes which are described as detailed as necssary and other ones where the author only gives slight hints. I love these passages because the reader himself usually starts thinking about the situation; nevertheless this does not mean that he might finally come to a clear or confirmed result, there is just too much room for speculations and interpretations. This might make the book a bit confusing (especially chapter eleven) but in my opinion this is one of the excellent attributes of the book that make it to a real 'page turner'. Cormier's writing style is fluent and the language figurative, filled with fitting metaphors and similes. The book contains a lot of material for discussions about the relationships between the characters, about the way other cultures see the Americans, about patriotism, about similarities among the seeming totally different main characters and finally about the topic itself - terrorism. Furthermore the book shows other characteristics that make it excellent for me. There is no happy end (by the way: the ending could be the beginning of a sequel as well), there is no typical hero and even innocent people die. This honesty Cormier writes with makes this book very close to reality. My result about the book in one word: recommendable.
am 26. Mai 2004
Review: After the first death - Robert Cormier
The book "After the first death" by Robert Cormier is about events of the hijacking of a school bus in the USA and the relationships of the involved characters.
Four terrorists kidnap a bus full of children and a young female driver. Also involved are an army general and his son who is tortured by the terrorists.
The atmosphere of the book is very dark and there are shown a lot of scaring feelings, so for example about committing suicide or about not having any positive feelings for any human being.
The events of the hijacking are described from different perspectives, the perspective of the hostages, Miro's one, the perspective of the general and his son. The chapter in which the situation in the bus is described are written in the third person, but you see the thoughts of Kate and Miro. The relationship of the general and his son Ben is described first by Ben and then by his father, in each case it is written in the first person.
Cormier writes predominantly in short sentences and switches often between the characters. This style of writing makes the book thrilling and confusing at the same time.
I liked the book very much, because it is the first book I had to read in school that was not boring, but really thrilling. In none of the chapters you can foreknow how the book ends or how the relationships of the different characters change. Every time the relationships change and you get to know new sides of a characters mind, your own emotional mood changes. You go from hating characters to sympathizing with them, then back to hating them.
For me the most interesting point was that I could get into the mind of a terrorist and see how their minds work and how they feel and think. I think to know this point of view is so important, because terrorism and not understanding the other cultures is one of the hugest problems these days.
So, altogether Cormier was able to give a good impression of this problem, but though it is not a dry book with political themes, but an interesting and diverting novel.
am 15. Juli 2001
As far as I'm concerned I was really fascinated by the book. I was really eager to read it even before we were allowed to do so. Thus, the book is very thrilling and shows different relationships very clearly. The characters are three-dimensional, unlike in many other books. You can identify with them. They are not the typical heroes like they are shown in other novels. On the contrary, they have weaknesses which are clearly shown by the author. That makes characters like Kate and Miro human. The reader can truly identify with them because they are not artificial but created like human beings are. Besides, the story is very thrilling. Once having taken the book in your hand, it's difficult to put it away. It's exciting from the beginning to the very end. In the book there are always scenes where new hope is hinted at. That's what makes the book so great. The book's subject is present every day and almost all people are involved. Terrorism is shown daily in the news and in the papers. The reason why I've only given four stars is the end of the book. Although I've considered many endings - as surprising as they might be - this end was not an option at all. The book has a message which is very worthy. I learned from the book that one can't rely on things turning out well. You have to fight to reach your aims and you have to do whatever you can, with nothing left undone. Thus, I think the book is really great!
It is hard to believe that Robert Cormier wrote "After the First Death" as early as in 1979, as you would think the plot was inspired by some of the gruesome events of the last few years, but Cormier's pessimism was apparently well ahead of its time - if pessimism can ever be that.
Cormier's tale is terse and yet complex, as it offers us a variety of different perspectives, often changing ones within one paragraph, which makes the novel quite a demanding treat. The story is about the hijacking of a bus of pre-school children on their way to summer camp by a group of four terrorists from an unspecified country somewhere to the south. Miro, the youngest terrorist, is about to pass his initiation by killing the bus driver the moment the bus is parked on an old railway bridge. The original driver, however, has been stood in for by his teenage niece Kate Forrester, and Artkin, the terrorists' ringleader, decides to spare her for a while in order to have somebody to calm down the children, who are also being drugged by the hijackers, which causes the death of one little boy. The terrorists demand the release of some of their accomplices, a large amount of money for the continuance of their cause and the disbandment of a secret government organization to do with countering terrorist attacks. The government, of course, is unwilling to concede, especially in this latter point, so that the military decides to take the bus by force.
Cormier's novel is more than just a book about the roots and motives of terrorism, although the figure of Miro can teach us something about how young people are recruited for terror organizations in poorer countries. It is, as far as I see it, basically a book about how adolescents are influenced by their parents. Kate, the bus driver, seems to be an insipid American teenage girl at first sight, but in the face of danger she discovers a potential for bravery and determination inside herself and yet all the time stands in need of somebody, preferably her parents, acknowledging this new quality. Ben Marchand, a general's son, is also willing to please his father - and his country - and therefore accepts his father's suggestion to go and negotiate with the terrorists. The most unsettling thing about the general is that he knows his son will be subjected to torture - the general actually preferring more clinical terms like "intensive interrogation" or "methodological intervention" - and that he therefore makes his son pick up false information, which he will deliver during "intensive interrogation". There is still another father-son relationship, namely that between Miro and Artkin, who at least is some kind of surrogate father to Miro. Equally eager to please his father figure as Ben is, Miro is yearning to earn his full acceptance into the circle of terrorists by killing Kate, although he also feels fascinated by her.
Both the general and his terrorist adversary, Cormier seems to say, manipulate the younger generation for their own aims, deftly using emotional bribery to achieve this aim, and justifying their cause by tagging the label of patriotism to their actions. "Either you are a great patriot or a great fool", Artkin says to the general when Marchand sends off his own son as a bo-between, and we might ask ourselves where the difference between these two possibilities lies. Reading this book made it clear to me that I doubtless have many character faults, but that, luckily, I am completely innocent of patriotism.
Cormier's book is extremely well-written - with a disturbing use of metaphors bordering on the insane* - and it provides ample food for thought. However, it is full of sordid realities and does not have a happy ending, which makes it quite unpleasant to read. But then eating your greens is not always pleasant, either, but good for you!
* To give you one example: "The lantern fell from his hand but continued to shine on him where it fell. Blood gushed from the faucet that had been his mouth a moment before. The blood spilled across his chest like scarlet vomit."
am 11. Juli 2002
Comment on "After the first death"; by Florian Stempfhuber 11a
In my eyes this is one of the most interesting books I have ever read. The style in which the author describes the action is very impressive, although the changing of the narrative technique
seemed at first very confusing. But there is no problem with this way of writing, neither is there a problem to follow the story. The way the author is making up his characters and their development through the action is great so that the characters do not come up as if they were artificial. Another point which I think is very good is that there is a character for everyone to identify with. The topic of this book, terrorism, which is more up to date than it was ever is described in a way which makes it fascinating to read and at the same time a shudder rans down ones neck and you ask yourself how cruel mankind really is. At the end I would say that this book can be bought without any regrets.
am 11. Juli 2002
we had to read cormier "after the first death" as an english homework assignment, and to be honest after the first view pages i wasnt too thilled about having to finish it in time. it was extremly boring and dull, very hard to read and conzentrate. but starting at around the 15th page, my opinion about the book changed. it suddently became interessting, suspicious, etc. i suddently realized that i couldn't put in down anymore, i just had to keep reading page after page. "after the first death " suddently became powerful and extremly serious, not only because it reminded me soo much of september 11th ( which we all will never forget), but because we were at the scene and we were allowed to look into the hijackers and as well into the victims minds.
cormier kees your hopes up for a "happy end". will kate survive?, what role does ben play in this book, how is he connected to the happenings? etc. ...
eventhough the book is really good, suspicious, mind-grabbing and yet extremly horrible in its truth, i would not give it 5 out of 5 because there was one part in the book that had me confused. the dialog between Ben and his father was and still is very confusing to me, i had to read it about two or three times till i unetrstood it, and then after getting the thoughts behind it, everything was suddently questioned and moved out of place. the narrator at the beginning turns out to be ... well you'll have to read, if you want to know the ending of the last sentence.
well my conclusion is the if you want to read a book that will kee you reading and hoping till the end, read cormiers "after the first death". for me it was very personal and yet extremly horrible, because i myself have lost two friends forever at ground zero ( the ruins of the world trade centers).
am 10. Juli 1998
Robert Cormier writes in a very effective way. He tells things like they are, not as people perceive them. The way he described how Milo felt was touching. The phrase 'the innocence of evil' definitely applies here. Cormier gets into the hearts and souls of people, and shows their flaws and attributes equally and without judging them. He uses multiple narrators so he gets across both sides of the story. It shows great talent to be able to write like that because it is confusing to get the details straight, but he does a good job so his story isn't at all confusing. The way he writes, his characters have emotions and they seem more 'real'. When he kills off two of the main characters, that shows he uniqueness in his writing. The only confusing part was when the general was talking to his son inside his head. Other than that I found this book easy to read and follow.
am 31. Dezember 1998
Wow. That's all I can say, is wow. What man is talented enough to show the human side of terrorism? Robert Cormier is. What man can confuse us and muddy the water so that we're not sure who the bad guys are? Robert Cormier can. How does he do it? Of all of them, only Miro lived. And Mark. Miro and Mark. Miro was free. Mark was...insane? That's another thing that Robert Cormier can do that the rest of us can't. I'm not sure if Mark was crazy or not. For all I know, they could all be crazy. And Raymond...don't let me get to talking about Raymond...he was a child...five years old, I almost cried when I learned what happened to him. And Kate--I knew in advance what would happen to Kate. And there's another thing. How does Robert Cormier manage to surprise me like that when I already know what's going on? Enough of this madness.
am 17. Dezember 2001
I like the book "After the first Death" very much,because it's a very realistic story,actually nowadays.The author wrote the book in a very special way.While I was reading the book I could imagine every situation all the time,because it was so realistic,brutal and sometimes also very worrying.So all these situations are situations like we see them in the news,every single day.I also liked the characters he had chosen.I only didn't like the ending very much,because it's a very open ending.You don't really know what happened to the mother,for example.But I liked all these different themes,he described,so that the book is thrilling the whole time.Another aspect,that I liked very much,was that the writer described the thoughts of all the characters so detailed and very realistic.Sometimes I thought,that I was in the event.
am 17. Mai 1999
I enjoyed reading this book and the insights it gives about terrorist and their commitment to their course. It is a balanced book as it also shows dedicated commitment on the side of those opposing terrorism. It leaves us wondering who is right. Why can't people just live peacefully? Cormier, however confuses the reader in chapter eleven. Is Mark insane or is he unable to live with the guilt he feels for sacrificing his young and innocent son in the course of his patriotism? Despite the confusion, it's still an entertaining text, but for students who are reading it as a text for their 'O' Levels these are some questions which need to be clarified so as to give students a clear picture of whats going on or are they expected to come to their own conclusions? Help Please!