zodinma Iweala’s child soldier keeps telling himself “I am not bad boy. I am not bad boy.” This while he’s compliantly, if dreamily, ushered through a slaughterhouse of a civil war in an unnamed African nation (Iweala, born in 1982, is Nigerian). The “not bad boy” refrain frames the book’s gloaming irony: it’s a tainted manchild, not an adult, hacking through these killing fields. Iweala’s brilliance is idiomatic. His book is chanted, scalding and staccato, a Homeric ode to folly pronounced in a unique patois. Iweala mostly avoids moralizing, a good thing as the corpses mount. Fine debut.