[I’m pasting the following review in its entirety because it made me very happy. One by One has accrued the most negative reviews of all my works to date, and reviews like this one are a source of immense satisfaction. Thank you, Mr. Burnett.]
“One By One” is an allegory in the vein of “Animal Farm” or “The Man Who Was Thursday”. As such, it obeys somewhat different rules than realistic literature.
The language is deeply poetic and lyrical, evocative rather than descriptive. The story is told from a very personal viewpoint–the thrust is not what is happening in the world, but how these events effect one man. The characters are archetypal. The two who are named are called “Peter” and “Sophia”, names rich with significance, and the ancillary characters are given titles rather than names–The Orator, The Professor, The Bishop.
The dialogue is rather Socratic, the characters are espousing a viewpoint, testing it against competing philosophies.
All of the above is intended to answer many of the complaints in the other reviews. This novel is a particular type of fiction, and to read it without understanding that is to invite disappointment.
Taken on its own terms, I believe that this is a brilliant work. It is disturbing and thought provoking and compels the reader to examine her or his own beliefs. There is no simple moral, no easily summed up message or platitude. The author’s intent was not, I believe, to make statements, but to ask questions. Personally, I am still puzzling over my own answers to those questions, and I suspect I may be for some time. This is a book that sticks with you.
I can recommend “One By One” wholeheartedly, but I do think it’s important that you know what it is that you are getting yourself into. This book will make you think–it asks questions and doesn’t give you the answers.