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The Desert / Bryon Morrigan

thdesert-lg.jpgDark Hart Press / November 2007
Reviewed by: Martel Sardina

One of the challenges of reviewing any book is writing a review that is honest and fair. Reviewers want to like the books they are given to read, especially when the books are small press releases and the reviewer is fully aware of the impact that a bad review can have on a small press publisher’s viability. That said, here are this reviewer’s thoughts about The Desert.

The story’s premise is interesting enough. Set in Iraq in 2009, the story opens with Specialist Densler and Captain Henderson on a recon mission looking for weapons of mass destruction. Instead, they find the body of a soldier from a platoon lost at the outset of the war. They also find the dead soldier’s journal. They read the journal hoping to ascertain what happened to the other members of the lost platoon.

The relationship between commanding officers and the subordinates is cliché. The subordinates know everything and the commanding officers are idiots. Readers may have a difficult time buying into these stereotypes.

Morrigan tells the story through multiple viewpoints, including the dead soldier’s journal entries. However, he made a critical error by not altering the diction and style of those different viewpoints. The story feels as if it is being told by the same person even though the reader knows from the text that is not true. The story suffers from this narrative distance, making it difficult for the reader to care about the characters and what will happen to them next.

Morrigan had a good idea for what should have been a great action-horror novel. The most distracting thing about the problem of narrative distance is that it kills the story. Events that should have been scary weren’t. Action scenes that should have been exciting were boring.

Word choice in some of the scenes also distract from the narrative. Throughout the novel, the characters swear, then for some unknown reason, the word “defecate” is used instead of “shit.” Readers do not want to be pulled out of a story for any reason, much less to wonder why the author is suddenly squeamish.

Morrigan does a good job with the setting description. Readers will feel like they are in the middle of the Iraqi desert. Unfortunately, that in itself is not enough to save the story as a whole.

Kudos to the book’s publisher, Dark Hart Press. For a small press release, the quality of the ARC was impressive. It is unfortunate that the story contained within failed to live up to the high expectations set by the packaging.

Purchase Bryon Morrigan's The Desert

Posted on Monday, October 29, 2007 at 08:14AM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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