Lord of the Flies by William Golding – Book Review

Title: Lord of the Flies

Author: William Golding

Publisher: Penguin Books; originally published in 1959

At the dawn of the next world war, a plane crashes on an uncharted island, stranding a group of schoolboys. At first, with no adult supervision, their freedom is something to celebrate. This far from civilization they can do anything they want. Anything. But as order collapses, as strange howls echo in the night, as terror begins its reign, the hope of adventure seems as far removed from reality as the hope of being rescued.

I think your favorite books may be the most difficult to review.

My first encounter with Lord of the Flies was when I spied my mom’s copy in her bedroom. I picked it up and asked her about it. She said, “That’s not a nice book. Don’t read it.” Or, at least, it was something like that.

Ah, the allure of a banned book! I didn’t read it just then. But years later, as a senior in high school, I decided to finally read it. I’d picked up the copy again and again in the intervening years, but had never actually cracked it open. When I did finally read it, I found it difficult to part with. I read it very quickly, and only set the book down a few times–something which is perhaps more commonplace for other readers, but is very rare for me.

Golding’s book is loaded with meaning, yet still flows easily and moves quickly. As the blurb says, boys are stranded on an island. At first, it’s an adventure. Eventually, it’s a nightmare. Why? Because of human nature. Of the novel, Golding said, “The theme is an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature. The moral is that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on an political system however apparently logical or respectable.”

When the boys–British schoolboys–are first stranded on the island, they form a simple yet rule-structured society. Ralph, one of the older boys, is to be the chief. He has a large, beautiful shell–a conch–which he can blow like a trumpet to call a meeting. When gathered at the meeting, only the person holding the conch may speak, and the conch is passed about to allow all voices to be heard.

They quickly decide that the most important thing is being rescued, and that the only way to be rescued is to keep a signal fire going, in hopes that a passing ship will see the smoke.

The problem is that there is more than one boy who wants to be in charge, and not all the boys are agreed on what the priorities ought to be.

The other problem is the presence of the beast–a monster who shares the island with them, but whose existence is never confirmed.

Now what about that title? Why is it called Lord of the Flies? “Lord of the Flies” is a translation of the Hebrew word Ba’alzevuv, or Beezlebub in Greek, one of the names or titles of Satan or the devil. The hunters in the book kill a pig, remove its head, and place it on a stake as an offering to the island’s Beast.

Later, a boy named Simon, dehydrated and hallucinating, has a conversation with the severed pig’s head, which by that point is covered in flies. The head–the “Lord of the Flies”–speaks with the boy in a pivotal scene, confirming Simon’s prophetic fears he had voiced earlier in the novel.

“Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!” said the head. For a moment or two the forest and all the other dimly appreciated places echoed with the parody of laughter. “You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are what they are?”

As the boy’s civilization further crumbles, the Beast’s words become more and more true.

What Genre is it? You’ll find it classed as YA often. It’s a bit odd in that classification, because none of the characters are very old. YA tends to focus on people about 16 years or older, whereas Lord of the Flies doesn’t have any character older than 13 (and it may only be 12, actually).

It’s a story of lost innocence, the darkness of the human heart, and the fallen nature of man. And it’s excellent.

5/5 – Will certainly read again.

 

Have you read Lord of the Flies? Did you have to read it in high school? Do you agree that society’s problems are problems inherent in human nature? If you were on a paradise island with a bunch of your same-gendered peers, do you think you could keep things civil, or would you start killing each other?

Happy reading!

Evolution of a Cover – Home To Roost

Hello!

A couple of weeks back, James J. Cudney did a review of Cleaving Souls, my second novel. There were quite a few comments praising the cover art, which was lovely to see since I’d created the artwork myself.

A few weeks before that, my cover art for both Cleaving Souls and my debut novel, Home To Roost, won 1st place in a cover-art contest for their respective genres (thriller and horror).

Between those two things, I thought: Hey, maybe I should do a little post about cover art creation.

And so here it is.

Now, first thing’s first: If you are self publishing, the recommendation you will find 100% of the time is to NOT do your own cover art. I think that is good advice. Does that make me a hypocrite? Yes. Do I care? No.

I didn’t follow that advice for a number of reasons.

  1. I’m a control freak? Could be this.
  2. I genuinely like the idea of producing the artwork on my own.
  3. I know a little bit about how to do that, and am not afraid of messing up.
  4. I have the time to make it look decent.
  5. I don’t have money to spend on professional help at this juncture.

I used a program called “Inkscape.” It’s completely free, and is used for creating Vector Art images. You can get it here, if you want to try it out. Vector Art is a bit different from the stuff you might have worked with in Microsoft Paint. Pro Tip: Unless you are trying to be ironic, do not make any cover art in Microsoft Paint.

I took a design course in college. It was taught by a graduate student, who was fired three-quarters of the way into the semester. Never found out why, but it hasn’t made me feel incredibly confident in the things I learned there.

Regardless, I try and apply the simple principles I learned in that class, as well as things I’ve observed by looking at other book covers. I fiddled around in Inkscape until I’d learned the ropes–or at least some of them. There are plenty of semi-helpful tutorials that can guide you through the things you can’t figure out alone.

I started with a few sketches. Unfortunately, I couldn’t include those here, as they’ve disappeared. They were hideous anyways, and not incredibly interesting, so I think we’ll manage to get along without them.

Once I had some ideas, I got to work in Inkscape. Mind you that my ideas had to be tempered by my abilities. Therefore, a more simple design was essential.

For those who haven’t read Home To Roost, it’s based on a the true story of a chicken my family owned about a decade back. Yes, a whole novel based on a chicken. It’s rather serious, too. Deals with a number of different issues, and has an ending that’s darker than people often expect. Those were all things I wanted captured in the cover art.

Without much further adieu, below are the different drafts of the cover art for Home To Roost, with a bit of commentary in the captions. They are listed in order of their creation, so as to give you an idea of how it evolved.

Title 1: I was hoping to show some of the duality of the characters–ergo the black rooster and white hen, inverted against one another on a horizontal plane, with their silhouette’s in an oval that I hoped would be reminiscent of an egg. The egg is cracked, alluding to some of the drama that occurs in the story.
Cover 2: I decided to scrap the hen and put the rooster in an obvious egg. The crack was changed as well, with the hopes of making it look like both a crack and a lightning bolt, as there are several storm scenes within the book. Which, if you’ve never seen a Midwest lightning storm, they’re pretty amazing.
Cover 3: Versions 1 & 2 had a border which I decided to ditch here. Part of the reason for that was that Amazon Print-on-Demand services are not perfectly exact. A thin border could look bad if it isn’t exactly on–one side would be noticeably thinner. I’ve also set the egg/rooster upon a hill. There were a few other renditions of this same design, mostly just fiddling with the hill’s slope.
Cover 4: Placing the rooster/egg upon a hill made me consider the idea of a sunset. Initially, I wanted to maintain the cracked egg while adding in the setting-sun look. To do that, I darkened the “sky” in the picture more.
Cover 5: As you can see, I decided to ditch the egg, realizing that having a chicken is probably chickeny enough. I went further with the sunset idea, adding in a very big and very yellow sun. The yellowness was intentional: I was still holding onto the egg idea dearly, and the yellow sun was an allusion to an egg’s yolk. The sun is further important as the chickens in the story are actually sun worshippers–like Aztecs, but without the human sacrifice! You may also notice the quote at the top from a “Jane Doe.” I decided (after reading some different opinions) that the quote on the book cover is something many readers expect. I therefore adjusted the book cover to allow room for one.
Cover 6: I reined in the title on this version, because before it was much too close to the right edge of the cover. I also added in the taller grasses. The added grasses where a better reflection of the story, created a bit more complexity and depth on the cover, and made a nice cradle for the sun.
Cover 7: By Cover 6, I was quite pleased with the picture. It wasn’t quite there yet, but I could feel that it was close. For the next rendition, we dropped the idea of a quote on top, and instead just threw up some text to give people an idea that this really was a serious novel. (Also, I had no big name “Jane Doe” reviewer’s statement to use.) The other thing was adding the dipping red hue to the sun itself, turning it orange towards the bottom. The flat yellow, it was decided, looked too fake.
Cover 8 – Final Cover: And here’s the final cover. All we did was adjust the text at the top to give it a more balanced look. I was quite pleased with the final product.

So there you have it. The one part of this process I haven’t yet mentioned is my wife. I saved her for last, because she’s the most important. Not every idea she has is golden, just as not every idea I have is any good. But we can bounce ideas between us, shoot down one another’s bad ones, and let the best ones rise to the top.

What do you think? Anybody prefer one of the earlier cover images?

Stay great.