What punishment would you give someone who killed someone in order to save something else? Time in jail? Or perhaps the death sentence? However, would you ever think of going into their minds and to find out their worst fear and force them to live through it? The Messenger of Fear by Michael Grant offers a fresh new perspective on the punishments that people need to receive for committing crimes they themselves know are bad. Here we meet Mara, a girl who wakes up in a cloud of fog in the middle of nowhere with no memories whatsoever. There she meets the Messenger, an unnatural, isolated being who claims her to be his new apprentice and leads her to different places where he appears to those who believe they have gotten away with committing a crime. He then offers them the choice of a game; if they win they can move on with their lives, but if they don't, the punishment is to experience will the worst thing they could ever imagine-- and hope to live through it. Through the use of the so-called justice that Messenger delivers, Michael Grant in the book Messenger of Fear shows that there is no such thing as a perfect punishment, and justice is almost always unachievable based on how subjective it is.
As Messenger introduces Mara to his world and his way of things, he leads her to her first real case, the case between two secret lovers who are seemingly true people at heart. Messenger and Mara are invisible to them as they trail and observe the two people together. Mara realizes that they are truly good people and quickly grows attached to them but Messenger is cool and distant to their situation. However, once the couple commits a terrible act, (not gonna mention it for ya’ll :D), and decide to leave without trying to take care of the problem lawfully, Messenger decides to step in with Mara at his side. Now for me personally, I thought this game choice that each person got was not fair in any way. For example, if someone knowing fully does a wrong thing that they know is bad then they should be punished automatically and not be able to avoid it. However this couple brought me to terms with this system. After all it was a difficult decision to go through with and they both were not truly bad people at heart. Not to mention the games themselves, that players have to go through are brutal and punishment enough. The games themselves are so exhausting that Mara herself feels exhausted just by watching and describes how she felt after the game with the words, “I am never without words, but not then, not at that moment when I felt so utterly drained, so helpless and hopeless that I feared I would simply slip into unconsciousness” (Grant 31). Now, after this first experience Mara feels that this justice serving role she has fell into is completely unjustifiable and extreme. However, after she witnesses what happens after someone loses a game, her standards of justice change again due to the severity that she witnesses.
Justice is originally a vague topic and has gotten even vaguer if anything. However Mara is still in tremendous shock of that first case but her second case hits her smack upside the head with an extreme and violent bully who's pushing went too far but isn't considered the direct perpetrator. Now fast forward, he is eventually sentenced to live through his worst fear, being burned alive. Now this act is the breaking point for Mara to witness and collapses through the screams and fits of agony she can hear. This causes her finally to dare and finally think about all the misfortune she was seeing. Previously her mind was so shocked, so broken that she could not even question anything. However now the need to somehow have this explained rises up in her as she says, “'This isn’t fair, this isn’t justice,' I said. 'People do bad things all the time. They get away with bad things all the time'” (Grant 59). At this point she is utterly confused. When Mara first woke up her perception of these cases were that these people should not and cannot be allowed to get away with the crimes they committed. Later on when there was an offer, she believed it was too much and could be tolerated but should be lowered but now she believes that the world was better off the way before all of this came into play. Now, what us as readers can take away from this is that there are different types of justice for different types of people and cases. And additionally, even those cases will be viewed differently by different people with different perspectives, which is what Mara learns by the end of her own case.
Justice in our society is a subjective topic and is flexible. A big flaw we have is that we don't look at all the sides and the aspects for each case and quickly overlook them as Mara did during her first cases. As she did slowly learn to carefully debate a decision her mind became more and more burdened and she struggled to keep her morality with her. This book teaches this same message in a whole new way with scenarios completely out of our imaginations and for that reason make our minds ponder these scenarios over and over again with no perfect solution in mind. This novel is definitely not for the faint hearted or those looking for a light happy story but for those deep psychological thinkers or those who love a true adventure story at heart this novel will not disappoint. Michael Grant uses the ideas in this novel to bend and twist our way of thinking and teaches us that justice is a delicate substance and that so many individual factors must come in to make the perfect solution. But then again… at least we don't have to deal with mystical beings coming to bring us justice. :)
I hope that you guys decide to read this intriguing novel! Please let me know about any comments, questions, or feedback you have below!
Do you agree with the novel that justice is subjective? Anyone strongly oppose it? I'd love to hear what you think
Thanks and see you next time!