Friday, February 10, 2012

Review: Murderball – Will Swanton

For the second book in a row I was required to endure the author while seeking desperately for the story. Where this was a story of a phenomenally impressive team of Australian athletes the overbearing nature of Will Swanton's writing takes so much effort for the reader. But first the positives.

The Murderball title no doubt tries to leverage off the consistently titled 2005 film about Wheelchair Rugby, but as you read you are left in little doubt that for the competitors involved they have no time for marketability, they are hardened competitors with only victory in mind. Predominately in their own words, this is the story of the Australian teams pursuit of gold at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.

Beginning with Australian coach Brad Dubberly's massive decision to step away from playing to coach, you begin with an early familiarity of each of the players, understanding their lives, and journey's into this most brutal of sports. They train hard, play hard, ask no quarter and give none either. After the familiarity you run through tournament by tournament, match by match, as they descend upon Beijing.

Sporting diaries are repetitive beasts by nature. When you play the same game over again there is little room for diversion from the norm, and in a sport that only seven nations play to any great extent this is only further enhanced. Chapter by chapter the heroes remain the heroes, the villains remain the villains. This would be difficult to remain engaged with except that instead of the same voice, the same opinion, over again the burden of storytelling is shared among team mates. The effect is that you get a consistent view but from different angles.

The struggle of this book is Swanton who rather than an author acts more as an editor, collating the stories from each member of the team. These stories are told by rough characters, men hardened by life, hardened for the game. What they need is an objective sensible voice providing the reader with information and balance that they may understand the athletes story better. What they got is someone who behaves as though they are one of the team. The pointless swearing, aggressive tone, and judgemental nature of the narrative is not required, the guys tell the story, Swanton comes across a fool as he confuses the reader.

Despite Swanton, the book is worth reading to hear about some of Australia's hardest working, determined athletes. Tennis Balls.

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