While counting down till Thrillerfest this coming Friday, I decided to explore some new types of thrillers…
I’ve never read this genre before,the genre of military thriller, though I absolutely love thrillers as a whole. These types of books excel in the craft of writing intense scenes, filled with just as much depth and nuance as any other genre, but with far fewer words. Therefore, I consider thrillers to be one of the top-notch genres, even though all genres (from an egalitarian view) all have their distinctive strengths and weaknesses.
Two words that aptly describe Joshua Hood’s writing: realistic/visceral. His visuals are extremely well-captured, to the point where you can feel the agitation of a solider’s adrenal rush in the midst of a chaotic battle sequence. You can feel the psychological tug-of-war, the subtle touches of despondence battling against that very real, tenuous pull for survival.
I haven’t read too much of the author’s biography or background beyond the back-flip-jacket “About the Author Section,” but the scenes which take place on the battleground itself, involving fairly well-shaped, interesting solider characters have a very strong sense of realism, possibly stemming from the author’s military background . It is this element that makes the various battle scenes have a fairly surreal element, meaning you wonder half-the-time as the reader with suspended disbelief, whether you’re in the throes of war or not. You can actually feel the racing heart-beat of trying to work against the clock to diffuse a potentially dangerous situation, the adversarial/though tight-knitted bond or relationship between the soldiers, and how they behave differently in either a war scene versus breaks from the war scenes. Then there is the intriguing role power that information plays in these types of stories. If there was one way to define a military thriller, it is a two-tiered structure; in one way it is about the primal scene of survival in the war scene, and the other is the pivotal role information plays in war. Bad or good leads could contribute, to a greater extent, to whether a mission fails or not, more-so than pure physical prowess and ability. Also, the definition of power, and who ultimately has it sometimes is far more impacted by the amount of intel one has than anything else.
Also, I really loved the way the author incorporated an interesting female character into the story, portraying her in a realistic light that allows her to be featured as seamlessly as any of the other characters. This means she is not devalued to the role of a “strong,independent, woman who needs no man;” she’s just like any of the other characters within the context of a highly tense, sometimes frenetically-paced situation where quick-thinking, cunning, and tenacity are more highly valued in the end than your goddamn gender..Renee is pretty damn awesome in the end, and she has equal footing with Mason and all the other characters, as it should be. I think you’ll find any skilled writers have an acute awareness of the equality of the human experience or struggles, so this really isn’t too hard of a challenge…but you’d be surprised how many books I’ve read just don’t quite succeed with this easily achievable goal.
Some situations and characters,though, felt a little hackneyed and contrived, one of the two biggest potential flaws with any thriller type writing. The strongest parts of the novel were surprisingly the action sequences, a part of any book that I tend to become bored by fast, except in the thriller genre, mostly because thrillers focus strongly on the suspense elements inherent to any action sequence more-so than the interminably-paced exposition of some fantasy genre battles…
But I really appreciated the opportunity, above all, to read outside of my genre comfort zone. I tend not to read military thrillers, but I am glad that I read a perspective that I often enjoyed being developed and analyzed in novels like the Outlander series (the Outlander books are filled to the brim with eighteenth century European war history). The author’s own background in the military contributed to the realism of the many situations described in the novel, which helped a newbie like myself to this genre easily get engrossed by the novel. It was a fast, compelling, mostly competently-written book, which I recommend for anyone, particularly train-commuters like myself, or those trying their very first military thriller. Personally, I liked it enough to read the first book in a series, if that counts for anything..That’s saying something, since I seriously have never read any book in this genre before, this is far outside my genre comfort zone.