Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Chemist's Shop by Richard Brumer *****

The Chemist's Shop by Richard Brumer is about the holocaust and morality. In 1970 Michael Ross, a holocaust survivor, meets Harry Sanders. Michael Ross (Miklos Rosen while a prisoner at Auschwitz) recognizes Harry Sanders to be the SS major Hans Stern who murdered his three little girls and raped his wife.

With a mixture of history and fantasy the author explores the morality of murder through the parallel lives of these two men. Using a device infamously known in Sci Fi circles ( as an info dump, the author injects great quantities of World War II history showing parallels between the Axis and Allied powers. Through the parallel combatants and these two parallel characters, the distinction between the typical good us versus evil Nazis is blurred.

While the book tends to blurs guilt and innocence, the guilty still tend to be shown with realism and historical detail in counterpoint to showing Michael Ross's life before the war as an ideal romance with his wife and the beautiful innocence of his three little daughters. I found this contrast to be heavy handed and distracting.

The narrative is in two parts: his plan for revenge on Hans Stern and his legal defense of his actions.

I found the topic of the holocaust incompatible in places with the idealistic and fantastic style of much of the book. The holocaust, as shown, defies neat conclusions, while the fairy-tale style seems to demand it. Regardless, the writing is excellent and it is a fast, interesting read.

No comments: