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36 Hardcover – March 30, 2012
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I'm so glad I didn't get what I expected. 36 follows Eric Lonnrot, who sets out to trek down the tzadikim and warn them of the danger they're in. He brings along Nahum, his only friend in the world. Nahum tries to explain to him that the 36 is only a myth, but goes along anyways because he feels responsible for Lonnrot's quest.
Along the way, Lonnrot and Nahum discover that more separates them than ever brought them close. They also find true good and it's foil, true evil. This book is set against the backdrop of a future in which the world is torn and fractured, and ruled by xenophobia. It's all too possible, and a helluva commentary on the human condition.
I highly recommend this book to everyone. Martin's themes and plot points run dangerously close to what we are experiencing today, even though he couldn't have known that when he wrote 36 back in 2012.
He now wants to spend the rest of his life protecting the righteous 36. The 36 though are not anyone special and cannot be picked out of the normal mass of people in the world. Only by looking at their 'good works' would one be able to find them. An example of two who might qualify are Elie Weisel and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. But it could also be someone who spends their time bringing clean water to a region with polluted rivers, or helping to teach people better farming techniques to increase their yield.
The premise of the book is that it is all of our responsibilities to protect the weak and vulnerable from the brutal and evil.
Nahum is a computer programmer who, as a child, barely escaped the destruction of Israel. He is convinced by his friend Eric Lonnrot to go on a search for the 36 Tzadiks, who, according to Jewish legend, are the few righteous people who justify the continued existance of the Eart to God. (Lonnrot's name is taken from a story by Jorge Borges and there are references to Borges' work throughout the book.) Lonnrot believes that he has identified some of the Tzadiks. They travel first to New York, then to London, giving the reader a tour of the books world. The problem is that the possible Tzadiks keep getting killed.
The book is well written and the characters are interesting. It does not require the reader to buy into the concept of the Tzadiks, whose existance is cloaked in ambiguity. And ultimately there is a break in the cloud cover of the author's dismal future, albeit a small one.