The books I've read previously create pockets of world's to tell a story in. The War with the Newts, Capek create an all encompassing story that not only covers the entire planet earth, but also allows for economical, sociological, financial and political effects of the tale being told.
The book can sometimes come across as a quite dry historical account of how the world, and indeed, mankind came to exist with the Newts. But then throughout the book we follow a very small number of characters and eventually returning to the butler who burdened himself with the guilt of introducing the newts to the world, which leads to the inevitable near-end of mankind.
I found the story telling quite brilliant in the ability to describe, in such believable detail, the impact of these newts being on earth, the changes to their environment that allowed for their growth and the world wide impact of this ecological change.
But it was the last two chapters that really won the story for me. The penultimate chapter has us revisiting the butler in his 70s taking a rowing trip with his son, and where he so confidently tells his son that they're safe in Prague. His son isn't so sure, and in a turn towards the end of the chapter, we see that the butler has been carrying the torment of "what if…", what if he had made a different decision: would the world's fate be in safe hands now?
Then the final chapter was (again, sorry) quite brilliant. A discussion between the author and himself as the writer, trying to determine if mankind's fate is truly doomed. Whether humankind has any way to save itself from its own inevitable self destruction through greed and fear. Or whether the newts are inevitably prone to the same failings as humankind too…
A tough, and sometime dry read, but really quite excellent!
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