Book Review: A strong debut

You’ve finally finished your liberal arts degree. You scour the wanted ads, ready to find your place among the educated elite, the upper crust of society, the movers and the shakers. The problem is you despise every last one of them. They are your enemy.

In his first novel, The Sun Never Sets, Frederico Morales tackles the same issues facing a lot of young adults. Do you conform to the expectations of a society you’ve never identified with or do you join the counter-culture supposedly resisting them? And if you choose to resist, how can you reconcile the rhetoric with the reality?

Morales poses these questions through the eyes of 22-year-old Paul, a recent graduate from Simon Fraser University, typical in his non-conformity. Isolated from his parents, emotionally cut-off from his girlfriend and lacking the ambition to move out into the real world, Paul is content to let experiences pass by him, comfortable in his ability to rearrange events in the safety of his own memory.

From the welfare line on Vancouver’s seedy East Hastings Street to the ocean-view condo of a beautiful urbanite, Paul searches for himself in both socialist ideology and love, but finds mostly his own cowardice and pain. Through it all, Morales’ language and the sometimes bizarre situations keep the pace consistently fast and compelling. As Paul stumbles from chance numerous and graphic sexual encounters to cult groups and raves, Morales maintains a tone of thoughtful introspection as we witness Paul mature. The book is genuinely funny in a number of situations, even if others are painful to read because of the blundering of the main character.

The supporting cast are sketched convincingly, with ambitions and flaws seen through Paul’s judgments of them. We witness the slow death of his idealism as the characters he looks to emulate systematically let Paul down. A close friend and champion of socialism sells out both the cause and Paul for a chance at love. Another protest guru admits the defeat of a movement more concerned with token protests than real change and chooses a dead end job instead.

Ultimately, Paul is believable because of the universal nature of his experience. Everyone with a social conscience has or will ask these questions of themselves. Most–like Paul–will find the answers are not always as black and white as they seem in youth. As Paul’s assumptions about loyalty, politics and class are tested, the lines between right and wrong, friend and enemy, other and self are similarly blurred. Morales’ The Sun Never Sets proves it’s difficult to despise your enemies when you become one of them.

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