Archive for soldier

BILLY LYNN’S HALFTIME WALK By Ben Fountain – Reviewed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2015 by stanleyriiks

On the cover it says this is the Catch 22 of the Iraq War, and it probably is. Ever since that seminal book was written every book on war that uses humour is compared to it. But Catch 22 is a classic for a reason, it’s an amazingly written book that twists and turns and makes a strange kind of sense, it encapsulates the danger, the struggle and the terror of being a soldier.

Does Billy Lynn’s story do the same? To a certain extent, yes, it does.

Billy Lynn and his squad are heroes. On a break from fighting after a much publicised mission, the military trots the soldiers across the country to drum up support. The book tells the story of their final stop, at a Dallas Cowboy’s game. Dealing with the stress of their last mission, recorded for all to see by a journalist, the loss of their comrades, meeting with the dignitaries and millionaires of the Cowboy’s management and fanship, trying to broker a deal with a Hollywood producer who wants to tell their story, coming to terms with heading back into a warzone, and falling in love, this isn’t just a story about war. It feels a little like a coming of age story for young (19 year old) Billy Lynn, and his story is quite incredible, as he joined the army after beating up his sister’s boyfriend who dumped her after a car crash.

Poignant, intelligent, well written, with humour, insight, and subtlety, this is a story of manhood, war, love, family and honour. A remarkable story, and yes, very probably the Catch 22 of the Iraq war. Touching and brilliant.

DAY OF THE DAMNED By David Gunn – Reviewed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 3, 2012 by stanleyriiks

I’m a huge fan of the Death’s Head trilogy, and particularly our reluctant hero, soldier and narrator Sven Tveskoeg, but despite Gunn’s unique and thrill-a-minute story telling, this is the weakest of the three novels.

For a start Sven is almost too utilitarian, the ultimate soldier is without his humanity (the Aux) for most of the book, and when they do turn up nothing much happens for them to be of any use. The plots of previous novels, Sven going from mission to mission, or sent on a huge suicide mission, here give way to political (high clan) intrigue. Sven feels out of his depth, and the reader awaits the action. Alas, it does not arrive. The damp squib of an ending is let down all the more because there is no fight, the “baddy” gives in, and the battle that should be hard-won is escaped.

Where’s the fighting, the action, the battles and near-death experiences? Where’s the edge of your seat/seat of your pants sequences that leave you dripping with sweat and physically exhausted? The first book int he series delivers and then some! It’s a full-on, over-the-top, action-fueled SF adventure! The third book… not so much. A couple of good action scenes, but poor plotting and a wasted opportunity of an ending just didn’t do it for me.

Not the best of a great set of action-packed SF thrillers. Sven deserves better, and I hope Gunn isn’t finished with his brilliantly-realised grumpy supersoldier.

THE JUNIOR OFFICER’S READING CLUB By Patrick Hennessey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2011 by stanleyriiks

A young man, fresh from university with a degree in English heads to Sandhurst to become an officer. He is trained by the best the British Army has to offer, and sent off to the Balkans as a warm up, then to Afghanistan and Iran where things get very hot indeed.

Insightful, poignant and entertaining, this is the British version of Jarhead. It manages to encapsulate the excitement and fear of warfare, as well as the struggles of being under-funded and under-resourced, and the moments of waiting, the moments of boredom during missions, and how the soldiers deal with it. There are also some interest insights into the world of a soldier and his relationship with the outside (non-military) world, and the adjustments trained killers have to make in “normal society”.

Intriguing and intelligent, Hennessey can write, and his first book is a must for any military fan.

FATHER’S LITTLE HELPER By Ronald Kelly – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2010 by stanleyriiks

There are certain things about this book that I liked. But most of it is plain and simple and slightly stupid.

The book starts off with Richard McFarland finally having enough one Christmas morning in 1978, and, finding a shotgun, goes to a church near where his car has broken down and shoots half the parishioners.

Fourteen years later, Sonny Beechum’s fascination with true crime comes to a head when he realises he is the son of Richard McFarland and goes on a rampage, heading towards the small town of Cedar Bluff where he aims to finish his father’s work.

All well and good, we’re set up for a reverse revenge tragedy, an all-out action-fest with guns blazing. And to a certain extent that’s what we get. Sonny’s actions take him across country, killing whoever gets in his way, following the instructions of his dearly departed father, whether he appears is a ghost or a figment of Sonny’s fragmented reality.

The problem is that it’s all too easy. Sonny’s a teenager with a shotgun, and yet he’s outsmarting the idiotic police department, the FBI and all the other law enforcement officers. The FBI are unwilling to get more than a single agent involved for most of the book in case the town gets scared. When they do bring some more people in, one a highly trained former soldier, he gets killed almost instantly.

The fact is it’s too easy for Sonny to go around the country killing people indiscriminately. It’s not that easy, and this is where the book falls down. There’s barely any struggle, the teenager is running rings around the police. Our “hero” is meant to be the town Sheriff, but he’s as easily duped as all the rest, and you can’t help enjoying the idiots getting their just desserts. Sonny becomes the anti-hero and you don’t want him to caught until he’s finished with these muppets.

Also we have the problem of characters. There aren’t any worth caring about, which just makes you root for the murderer even more.

Apart from the complete lack of plausibility – throwing in the dad as adviser and Sonny’s true-crime obsession are just not enough to convince us he’s a criminal mastermind – this is a nice violent action novel. I’m not sure I’d go as far as saying it’s a thriller, but there’s enough here to keep you entertained if you can forgive it its problems.

Not bad, but certainly not good. If you find a copy it’s worth reading, but I wouldn’t for a second suggest seeking it out.