Stars: 2 out of 5
DNF at 50%
I am honestly amazed at all the 5 stars reviews on Goodreads. Have I read a different book than everyone else? They talk about a good story and gripping action… Well, I had to force myself to read to halfway point, and I honestly saw neither. Maybe things get better in the second half of the book, but if I have to wait until then for the story to get interesting, something is wrong. Plus, I don’t have that much patience.
I think the biggest problem is that the author doesn’t know how to show anything. All he does is tell. We have paragraphs upon paragraphs of descriptions of everything from buildings to uniforms, to what is happening to the character. But it’s all tell, tell, tell… I mean, he even managed to make the basic training sequence boring as fish. And it lasted way too long, by the way. I mean we are barely out of basic training and actually on the Line by the halfway mark.
It doesn’t help that Vivian’s character is a non-entity. Because the author tells us everything instead of showing, we are never privy to her inner thoughts or find out how she actually feels about the things that are happening to her. I mean we have several chapters describing how grueling her basic training was, and how the drill sergeant did everything he could to break her… but that’s just words. I have no clue how she felt about it. I don’t see her exhaustion, her frustration, her determination to continue. None of that is there.
And why is she here anyway? Yes, she wants to find out what happened to Sally, but again, apart from what the author tells us, nothing shows us just how much she meant to the protagonist. Show us some flashbacks. Show us their interactions when they were friends. Show us how Vivian felt when Sally left to join souldier, or how she felt when she received the news of her friend’s death… then I will believe that she could drop everything and travel half the world away to seek some answers. As it stands, I don’t care.
And that’s the trend in this book. We are told that the characters are doing something or reacting to something, but we aren’t shown that. And often, we aren’t shown any reactions at all where there should be something.
For example, when Vivian and her fellow enlistees are sent to help load and unload planes during the new wave, the pilot of one of them has a mental breakdown, literally saying that he brought his squad back in boxes. They were unloading coffins. Surely, there would be a reaction to that? We get nothing. No horror at the realization, no desperation, no fear even. Nothing but the description of how grueling it was to work for such long hours for several days. NOT the thing you want to put the accent on in this kind of story. That was a lost opportunity to immerse the reader in the world and show just how bleak the situation is.
When I realized that at halfway mark the book wasn’t getting any better, and that I was just getting more and more frustrated with the writing, I gave up.
PS: I received an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.