Entry 6 in my challenge to read 26 books this year, was “The Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kingsolver.
The book follows a family of missionaries (the Prices) that travels to the Congo in the ’60s. The narrative is told from the perspective of the 4 daughters and the mother, and tells the story of the struggles they have trying to “civilize” Africa and trying to deal with their headstrong, stubborn (and unpleasant) father.
The book nicely illustrates “the white-man’s burden”: the idea that the west knows what’s best for Africa, and how we often try to impose not only our morality, but our way of doing things as well — and how often that backfires. I found the timing of my reading this book quite coincidental with the whole “Kony 2012″ fiasco — another example of western naiveté and condescention. I’ve personally travelled in Africa and have tried to do my small part to help Africans help themselves. The west is largely responsible for the problems in Africa (mainly through economic/political interventions over the past century) and something tells me that further interventions aren’t really the solution unless they have to do with removing the root cause (the corruption caused by western economic interests). But that’s a whole side issue and can be expounded upon by far more intelligent people than me.
A recurring theme in my reading these novels within the context of game development has been the extent of depth beyond the plot. The exploration of themes and ideas that are difficult, if not important to the human condition. Something that many games lack. In this way, I’ve found it interesting playing “Mass Effect 3″ lately. Interestingly, ME deals with a lot of themes as well: loss, death, and the impact of war — refugees, etc. It’s refreshing to see a game actually strive to add depth, and show that decisions have consequences. It’s hardly surprising that some people have spoken out against this, after all, if you strike up strong feelings it’s a sign that you’re actually saying something.