Showing posts with label Mike Bond. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mike Bond. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Last Savanna by Mike Bond

Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This book has been around for a while and when it was offered on Net Galley I read the blurb and thought it might make for an interesting read, but I was wrong in my assessment. It was not. There were several problems, not least of which was the bait-and-switch wherein the blurb led me to believe this was to be about fighting those who murder elephants for their ivory, when it was really just a sad story about some obsessive old dude who can't get out of his head this woman with whom he had a one night stand decades before, and now is unaccountably obsessed with for no good reason (not that there is ever a good reason for obsession!). Worse, this guy is married and this told me that he was a sleaze. Why would I root for him?

Add to this the delight the author takes in describing scene after scene of blood, gore, and slaughter, including for the entire opening segment of this novel, and it turned me right off, because when there was no gore, there was unending tedium and mind-numbing introspection which turned me off further. I'm not a fan of Kirkus reviews. I routinely avoid them because they never met a novel they didn't like, which means their reviews are utterly worthless. It's reached a point where if I see that a book has been reviewed by Kirkus, I walk the other way. This is ironic because if I'd happened to have seen their review, I would have known to avoid this novel like the plague! They said it "Will make readers sweat with its relentless pace and blistering descriptions of the African sun." I would have known for sure from that mindless garbage, that it was precisely the opposite.

Dorothy and Ian MacAdam have lived on a ranch in Kenya for a long time, yet despite their supposed love of Africa, neither is happy, and Dorothy wants out of there, whereas Ian is just a jerk who cares nothing for anyone but himself. At the drop of a hat, he abandons his wife purportedly to go hunting poachers even though neither he nor we have been offered a solid reason for him to go. As it happens, his 'obsession chick' is, by amazing coincidence, kidnapped for ransom for no good reason, by some itinerant and laughably brutal caricatures of Somalis, and suddenly Ian is galvanized to chase them. The hell with the elephants. From that point on, no one cares about poachers. The bait-and-switch made it about kidnappers. The novel should have been titled "Like Women for Elephants."

You know if the Africans were serious about stopping the elephant and rhino slaughter, they would track down and tranquilize every last one of them and remove their horns and tusks, and they would keep doing this until all the lowlife scum poachers have been forced to give up their evil and brutal trade for lack of bounty, and have found something else to do. Problem solved. There's no reason to kill the animals if there's nothing for the poachers to benefit from, yet this slaughter goes on and endlessly with these animals being slowly wiped-out because no-one evidently has the good sense or the guts to step-up and remove the incentive.

This would have been a much better story had it been about someone doing precisely that: sneaking around under the governments' noses, and avoiding poachers, and getting it done, but instead of something new and different we got precisely the same and that was precisely the problem with this story: it offered nothing new or original.

It did not help that the story-telling, particularly the violence, was so overly-dramatized that it became a joke, with people being shot and flying backwards in the air from the impact of the bullets which simply doesn't happen except in asinine Hollywood depictions. Bullets are so small and dense, and move so fast that they're through you before you even notice the impact and they sure as hell don't kick you backwards like you're a circus acrobat, not even if they break a bone. And there is no way they're going to kick a huge elephant's head around from the impact either. Puleeze! These descriptions were a joke and constantly kicked me out of suspension of disbelief and helped to ruin this story.

I stopped caring about any of this about a quarter of the way through, and I skimmed and skipped to about half way through, and I realized I was wasting my life reading this, when I could be reading something more engrossing, more entertaining, and more authentic. Life's too short. I cannot recommend this based on what I read.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Holy War by Mike Bond

Title: Holy War
Author: Mike Bond
Publisher: Mandevilla Press
Rating: WARTY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often enough reward aplenty!

Frankly, this novel is a mess. It begins not on page one, but on page nineteen, the first eighteen pages being filled mostly with advertising. The actual novel itself is 365 pages long, one for every day of the year and judged by how much it's padded with extraneous detail, aimless rambling and flashbacks, it could probably be at least a hundred pages lighter and healthier for it.

It never hurts to lose some excess weight! Whether this is how the print book will look or whether this padded bra of commercial material up front is confined to the ARC version, I don't know. I wish that publishers and writers would have more respect for trees though.

The author has actually been a journalist in Beirut, so he knows the deal there, but that doesn't mean he can write an engrossing fictional story about it. This one was too splintered and fractured to be coherent. The book was really hard to get going on, because it was bouncing around all over the place, jumping from one set of characters to another, from one scenario to the next so quickly that I couldn't get comfortable with the characters, nor was I left with a feeling that I was going anywhere.

The author gets the lyrics wrong to the Chicago song If You leave me Now. It's not "If you leave me now, you'll take away the very best part of me", it's "If you leave me now, you'll take away the biggest part of me" which, when you think about it, sounds like impotence, doesn't it? I don't know if that's the way Peter Cetera intended it when he wrote it, but it is a beautifully embedded double meaning - if you get the lyric right! I guess the dope-smoking sabotaged Neill's brain cells and prevented them from nailing down the lyrics....

So Neill is the main character. He's an American journalist, but he's been recruited by MI6 (the British equivalent of the CIA) to go (as a journalist) to Beirut, his mission is to try to contact a terrorist named (highly originally) Mohammed, who is linked to Hezbollah. Mohammed can apparently stop the slaughter, although how that works is anyone's guess. Mohammed is also evidently married to an ex of Neill's, named Layla (another original name).

To try and add a little zest to the recipe, the author has also thrown in André, who is a commando in the French armed forces, and who wants to murder Mohammed to avenge the death of his brother, who died in the Beirut Marine barracks bombing in 1983. Additionally, there's a female terrorist named Rosa (the choice of names in this novel frankly sucks) who is as deadly as she's dedicated. No doubt both of these characters will conspire to thwart Neill's aim.

While the timing is obviously 1983 or later, the actual dating of the events in the novel isn't clear - at least not in the portion I read. I noted that one reviewer considered it contemporary, but I don't see how it can be given that it appears to follow hot on the tail of events which took place a generation ago.

The pacing is excruciatingly slow and constantly - I mean constantly - interrupted with flashbacks which completely destroyed the story, the atmosphere and any sense of immediacy for me. It takes forever to actually get to any real and current events (current within the story's framework, that is), and those are irritatingly fragmented.

Instead of getting to the action, the story wallows endlessly (and mindlessly) in flashbacks, dalliances and memories, multiplied by two (one set for Neill, the other for André). Rosa seems to be the only one who is actually getting anything done! No wonder terrorist keep on blind-siding us! For example, Neill spends an inordinate amount of time in Holland doing nothing more than sitting around and smoking dope. André appears to be wandering aimlessly around Paris.

If you like gory detail, there's plenty to be had here. For me, describing how a bullet goes through a supine victim's head and then bounces back off the cement floor and returns through that same head is, if you'll forgive the pun, overkill. I already got that Rosa was coldly obsessed. I don't need to have her putting one bullet after another into her victim from several different angles and read about how he's still spastically moving even then. This added nothing to the story or to her character portrait, so I don't see the value other than gratuitous violence for the sake of it.

In the end I could not get past the first third of this novel. It really was not for me. It was far too jumbled and disjointed, which spoiled the story and made me quickly lose interest. I can't recommend this. This is the second Mike Bond novel I've reviewed. The first was Tibetan Cross and I didn't like that one either, so I guess I'm done with this author, too.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Tibetan Cross by Mike Bond

Title: Tibetan Cross (could not find it listed on B&N or Amazon!)
Author: Mike Bond
Publisher: Mandevilla Press
Rating: WARTY!

I could not get into this at all. I felt nothing drawing me in and felt no interest in or warmth towards the characters. The story is a mess. I had no idea where it was going.

The blurb felt a bit off to me, but it made it sound interesting enough, yet when I began to actually read this, the writing wasn't engaging at all, and it took far too long to bring in the female interest. By the time she showed up I had lost interest to such an extent that she wasn't enough to regain it for me.

It begins with some guys crossing a raging river in Tibet? Nepal? I don't know. One of them nearly falls in but he doesn't. Then they continue the journey, teaming-up with some locals carrying either salt or assault rifles, and it turns out it's actually a nuclear bomb trigger, and they fall into the river, and suddenly the other guys want to kill them, but they escape. In order to evade pursuit they have to split up, then this one guy is chased by a leopard, and at this point I was rooting for the leopard. At least she had motivation and was interesting.

Here's the problem - these guys are transporting arms, why would they want some hippie climbers coming along with them? It made no sense whatsoever that they would ask other people, outsiders, to travel with them. I think this farcical set-up was one of the main reasons why this novel lost credibility for me, and it never regained it.

Later there's shooting outside an embassy and more endless running, and I'm so bored by this time that even a shoot-out didn't engage my interest. It's around this same time that I find I'm skimming sentences, then paragraphs, then pages trying to find something which could hold my interest.

The formatting for the Kindle was pathetic and this didn't help endear me to the novel. When I was half-way through, the Kindle said I had three minutes left to read in the book, which is patent nonsense, although I admit that skimming screens probably screwed it up, but even when I slowed down and began reading properly again, it didn't change the timer. Weird. Yeah, I know this is an ARC, but this isn't an age where metal type has to be set by hand in a tray. In a world of electronic writing, and templates, and automated formatting, there really is no excuse whatsoever for sub-standard ARCs.

Needless to say, but I'll say it anyway, I gave up on it. It was too disorganized, poorly plotted, limply depicted, and offering no reason to get interested in the story or the characters. It wasn't even trying to lure me in. I couldn't care are about any of these people because I was never given reason to. They just didn't engage me. It seemed like it was far more a surfeit of set action pieces flimsily linked with a really vague attempt at a narrative rather than an actual and complete story.

It reminded me of exchange Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson had during one academy awards show, when Stiller was giving grief to Wilson about his (then recent)movie Behind Enemy Lines where the entire movie is about Wilson running and being shot at to no purpose or end, and that was this novel - highly improbable, impossible to appreciate, endless running and unlikely garnering or one injury after another, none of which slowed down the runner. Why would anyone be interested in reading this same thing over and over again with nothing else happening and no reason offered to care about who it happened to? I wasn't.