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Songs of the Dead

by: Derrick Jensen

August 10th, 2009 · post by Fred Goodsell · Make a comment

For those not familiar with Jensen’s work he has been hailed by some as a singular voice speaking out against the destructive nature of the dominant culture and a ‘drooling luddite’ by others.

Jensen’s most accredited publication to date ‘Endgame vol 1 and 2′ is a moving argument against civilisation’s destructive nature that is heading us towards ecological meltdown. In volume 2 Jensen goes beyond the usual apocalyptic predictions and supplies a troubling yet provoking action plan to avoid the environments  destruction.

Songs of the Dead is Jensen’s first ‘fictional’ offering (not including a ‘As The World Burns‘, a comic book). I use the word fictional loosely because the books protagonist is, well Derrick Jensen. The book’s basic plot is that of a sadistic murderer stalking the streets of Jensen’s home town brutally murdering women. Jensen and his partner Alison’s paths cross with the killers when Jensen develops hallucinations that allow him to see into the past and future (All of this we must presume is fictitious). However this fairly pedestrian plot is really only a pretext to discuss the very real, destructive nature of our dominant culture. This allows Jensen to explore perspectives untypical to non-fiction which are undeniably thought provoking. I was at times captivated by the emotive nature of the book.

My only real gripe with ‘Songs of the Dead’ is that at times it feels that Jensen paints himself a little to invincible to the culture he describes. That his character represents purity and the killer evil. It is my experience that however much we may want to make the right decisions in life sometimes things just aren’t that simple. It would have been interesting for Jensen to explore some moral dilemmas.

There are moments of sci-fi, horror, drama and comedy but most of all Songs of the Dead is an entertaining and thought provoking exploration of life lived in a dying civilization. If you are a fan of Jensen’s past work you are likely to be familiar with the issues explored in Songs of the Dead but it is an interesting read none the less. If you are new to Jensen, this is a good place to start though you may find one of his previous titles more direct in tackling the issues presented here.

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