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City of God: A Novel Paperback – September 14, 2006

4.0 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Lins's 1997 fiction debut—the source of the 2002 film published in English for the first time—chronicles two generations over three decades in the infamous Rio de Janeiro City of God, "a neo-slum of concrete, brimming dealer-doorways, sinister-silences and cries of despair." From the slum's creation in the early 1960s for flood victims, through the rise of disco and cocaine in the 1970s, to the horrific gang wars of the 1980s, Lins traces the rise and fall of myriad, often teenaged gangsters for whom guns, girls and drugs are the tools of power. While the film traces the divergent paths of two childhood friends, the novel rushes from vignette to vignette, with an ever-changing cast of characters with names like "Good Life," "Beelzebub" and "Hellraiser." Years, and pages, pass in a haze of smoking, drinking, snorting lines of cocaine, dancing sambas, swearing and planning the next big score. Guns dispense justice; the price for disrespect, whether to a spouse, a friend or the favela, is torture or death. Lins, who grew up in the City, lets the horror speak for itself. He serves up a Scarface-like urban epic, bursting with encyclopedic, graphic descriptions of violence, punctuated with lyricism and longing. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

First published in Brazil (as Cidade de Deus) in 1997 and adapted for the screen (as City of God) in 2002, this translation makes the book finally available to English-reading audiences. City of God is a housing project in Rio de Janeiro, initially intended for displaced flood victims. In a kind of dreamlike reportage that covers three decades (the 1960s to the 1980s), Lins contrasts the diminishing beauty of the nearby river and jungle with the growing ugliness of the crime-plagued, poverty-stricken project. He focuses mostly on the short, chaotic lives of gangsters, though he also keeps an eye on pot-smoking Rocket (perhaps a stand-in for Lins), a more gentle soul who escapes to become a photographer. Fernando Meirelles' film was cartoonishly violent, and although the book is startlingly so, Lins shows us more, chronicling longing, lust, ambition, superstition, hope, grief, and despair. With plot devices sometimes as minimal as the dawning of a new day, City of God seems more like a mosaic than a novel, but it's a mosaic with unforgettably vibrant colors. Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 431 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press, Black Cat; 1 edition (September 14, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802170102
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802170101
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #115,276 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John P. James on February 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
The fact that the film didn't win the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay proves that the Academy Awards are nothing more than a popularity contest. The chore of adapting this massive novel must have been an immense task (it took three drafts before they director and producers got a script they were satisfied with). What was on the screen was basically a summary of the novel.

For instance, Rocket is a minor character in the book, Lil Ze is based on a character named Tiny, and the 'Tender Trio' is based on the characters Squirt, Hellraiser and Hammer. Carrot (called 'Carrots'in the book) and Knockout Ned (simply called 'Knockout') are about the only characters in the book that fans of the movie will recognize right off the bat. There's no mention of The Runts specifically, but dozens of other youngsters are. So many characters are introduced and killed off that it was impossible for me to keep up, but fans of the movie will notice bits and pieces of specific characters. Almost all the characters in the film are creations from several other characters in the book.

The book is more violent than the film. Paulo Lins describes the massacred bodies in grafic detail. The last third of the book (well over 100 pages) deals with the war between Knockout and Tiny.

Cocaine and marijuana is mentioned repeatedly throughout the book. Almost every character seems to use or deal the drugs. The world of dope dealing is thouroughly investigated in this book.

Paulo Lins does an amazing job of telling the story of the City of God, but for me it was hard to keep up with the countless characters. The film makers did a great job of adapting this massive story. So if your a fan of the movie, and want to get a different perspective of this Brazilian hell-hole, then check out the book, just don't expect it to be just like the film.
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Format: Paperback
Those familiar with the film will find almost instantly that it more or less borrows elements from this book and condenses story arcs. Rocket is not the narratator as in the film, and appears to be nothing more than a background character at first. His role still takes the inevitable course to photography. As with the movie the first part takes place during the early dawn of the City of God's development. the "Tender Trio" from the movie is a revolving door of characters with unfamiliar names. Segments like Hellraiser's pursuit of Berenice and the hotel heist are here as with many other elements. Other characters from the book become condensed in the film's take. The Lil' Dice/ Lil Ze'character becomes Pipsqueak and such. It truly is a flux of thoughts but becomes more involving with each page turn.
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Format: Paperback
For those who may think this is about St. Augustine's book, it's not. This movie is not for the faint of heart, so I well understand the 1 star reviewer who said his hand was trembling as he removed the DVD from his player. Slumdog Millionaire was a fairy tale while City of God is the real world of poverty where violence is brutal. FULL STOP. This film is for people who need or want to know.

During the time this movie was made there were 100,000 people involved in the drug trade in Rio. The City of Rio required 100,000 civil servants to run the city. The sole reason for the existence of the State (i.e., protection of the serfs) is taken over by the drug dealer (if you are in his good graces). Do you see what a government is competing with? As a result, the police in Rio are said to be the best trained urban street fighting outfit in the world because they have to operate like an army. How can there ever be enough money or police to stop the drug trade? Is it clear things have gotten out of control? And this is how it is all over the third world. So how did this happen? What do you do - you can't contain it within its favela walls? The job of the police is now to try to protect the neighborhoods of the rich and middle class. Is this the true state of capitalism with regard to rich and poor in most of the world? I fear City of God is just the tip of the iceberg.

Based on a true story, this movie is raw, unadulterated life in which people whose God is violence, sex, drugs or even a pair of Nikes are living and dying, where the family is the gang and manhood is proven in sadistic ways. Not being able to choose where you are born, how do you raise a child under these circumstances? If you are a missionary, how do you approach this place?
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I saw the movie City of God with subtitles, unfortunately not from the beginning. I read the book because I wanted to get a better picture of the story being told. The book renders a very startling view of poverty and violence in the lives of young people with deferred dreams. The violence described is horrific, much more than the movie but I had some preparation. What is recognized in this story is the hopes and dreams of individuals, families and communities; the very heart and soul of success in most cultures across the globe. The means to achieving these dreams is skewed by many barriers exposed in the favelas.
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Most people coming here to look up this novel are likely already fans of the film. This is one of the rare cases where the movie is actually much better than the book. That's not to say that the book is bad. It is a decent novel, but with some issues.
For one thing, some of the writing seems a little bit simplistic at times. I have to wonder if this is due to Lins' style, or if some things get a little lost in the translation.

A bigger issue is that there are way too many characters to keep up with, and only a precious few of them are developed enough for them to leave a mark on your memory. The trouble with that is that characters' start blending together. Add to that the fact that the story tends to jump around quite often. You'll be reading about a moment in the life of one character, when the story will take an abrupt turn to that of another, and it can be confusing to try to follow. I would have liked to see more focus on some of the major characters, rather than bits and pieces about the myriad criminal exploits of probably 20 or so characters. It's as if you keep waiting for a particular part of the story to peak, and it never really seems to. It simply branches off into another section of the story, which will likely end up in more violence.

On the other hand, I have to allow for the possibility that this was maybe Lins' intention. That the lives of these lost souls in the slums of Brazil just blend together in this sea of tragedy and hopelessness. Each person is just another cog in the wheel of violence. I can appreciate that. The novel's lack of structure may not make for the best reading experience, but it is somewhat unique.

For fans of the movie, it's worth a read, if for nothing else than to see what inspired Fernando Meirelles' cinematic masterpiece.
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