I am not lost…

December 14, 2016

REVIEW: A RED DOTTED LINE by Simon Gervais

I received this book as an ARC from The Story Plant in exchange for my honest review.

Okay, so this review should have gone up ages ago, but because my life seems to have fallen apart, I didn’t get a chance to put this up when I wanted. Also, I should have known better, honestly. It’s a thriller, and those inevitably take me longer to read than the average book. I’ve made a living, as it were, reading stuff like YA. It’s not that I don’t enjoy adult fiction, it just doesn’t immediately catch my attention like others do. Thrillers are the most adult-y of adult books in my experience, with a lot of action and a lot of words and–I’ve found–usually a lot of in-depth terminology that is lost on a poor liberal arts student like me. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t enjoyed them.

I don’t really know if I enjoyed this book per se, but it’s definitely a well written book.

I’ve never really understood the insistence in thrillers of using specific military jargon, for example, and expecting that everyone reading knows that it means. Maybe I’m the outlier here, but I don’t know what these designations for squads or guns or actions mean, and they almost never get explained. It’s very frustrating. And while RED DOTTEN LINE does that in part, it doesn’t seem as pervasive as I’ve seen in other books. Most of the time if I didn’t understand something, it was either explained relatively soon after, or I could figure it out from context clues. Useful, and appreciated. You can explain what you’re doing without assuming your audience is stupid, and Gervais does that quite well.

I will admit, however, that there is a habit among thriller writers that I do not understand, and that Gervais does on almost every page. There is this habit of referring to characters by their full name–first and last–every other time they’re mentioned. If there’s only one Mike in the story, then you don’t need to keep telling me it’s Mike Powell. I’m going to assume it’s Mike Powell. But everyone needs to make sure that I don’t forget that it’s Mike Powell, because Mike Powell is going to do important things, and we might need to remember that his name is Mike Powell.

I swear, that’s what it feels like some times. I don’t understand.

It’s interesting, reading this after my time with Ethan Cross’ THE JUDAS GAME. Both thrillers, both written by excellent authors. But JUDAS GAME was harder to properly invest myself in because I didn’t care about any of the characters. It was a book of broken people playing with other broken people to influence even more broken people. There really wasn’t anything to hold on to with them. But in RED DOTTED LINE, while there were plenty of issues and people with problems they needed to deal with, they didn’t force the character to act differently, and they didn’t detract from your ability to cheer them on. Loyalties shifted, people died, people you didn’t expect to die got killed. Not as high a body count as some thrillers I’ve known, which is also appreciated, but not a light and easy read. There’s a lot of death and a lot of pain, and Gervais writes it in full detail. I was squirming in quite a few places, and I’m not easily affected by written descriptions of that kind of thing. (I mean, one guy had a testicle explode. I don’t even have the ability to fathom what that would feel like but OH GOD CROSS THE LEGS because ow.) This wasn’t a walk in the part, but it didn’t feel like a death march either. It’s that balance I wish I could see in more books like this.

I’m afraid my opinion of the book overall is a little faded because it took me as long to read it as it did, but I’m still willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. By the end of the book I was invested, interested in who would live and who would die, and whether or not any of the characters would get the happy ending they deserved. (Answer: …uh, probably? Hard to tell.) I know that there was a book that came before this one, and it clearly leads into the potential for a sequel, and while I wouldn’t have guessed it at the beginning, I’d be more than happy to read the next one when it comes out. Heck, I might try to pick up the first book in this chain. Just to get myself more acquainted with the world.

Definitely recommended to fans of high-stakes thrillers and military fiction.

Rating: **** (Recommended)

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