2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
An Improvement on Act 1,
This review is from: Edge of War (Larry Bond's Red Dragon Rising) (Mass Market Paperback)NOTE: This is a copy of my review for the hardback edition of 'Edge of War', originally published in Feb 2011
Let me start with some advice. Don't read Edge of War without reading Shadows of War (Larry Bond's Red Dragon Rising) first. Edge of War is a continuation of the stories that commenced in Shadows of War and will make little sense if you haven't read the previous volume.
The next thing I would add is that the 1 star rating from 'rsasdr' seems a little harsh to me. Its the equivalent of saying 'I hate this book' and I would only award such a low rating to something I really disliked, that had no redeeming qualities and that I struggled even to finish. Whilst Edge of War has its flaws its by no means the car-crash that a 1 star rating would seem to suggest. Its certainly worthy of three stars, and scrapes a further star from me since I enjoyed the experience of reading it.
I can see however, why some readers might be disappointed by Edge of War. As a standalone novel it is definitely lacking. The structure and pacing feels all wrong and the various plot threads are left entirely unresolved. In one case the book ends mid-way through a significant military operation with characters still behind enemy lines. In that respect Edge of War is not a wholly satisfying reading experience.
To judge it on those terms however, would be unfair because it is not intended to be read as a standalone novel; it is a single episode in a story-arc that started in Shadows of War. As such it is a contemporary verion of the sort of serialised story-telling popularised back in the pulp-fiction of the 1930's and still found in graphic novels today.
On that basis it works just fine. It picks up the various plot threads at precisely the point they were left at the end of Shadows of War and gets running with them straight away. There's no preamble or prologue to reestablish the scenario; its as if you've simply turned the page from Act 1 of the story to Act 2. From there the pace of the storytelling remains rapid. The first half of the book is essentially a continuation of the chase that dominated the second half of Shadows of War, but with rural Vietnam swapped for Hanoi and Saigon. Events unfold quickly, but also logically and with reasonable plausibility. A shift in location half-way through marks a slight change in pace and a greater focus on political intrigue, but the book remains enjoyable. Bond and Defelice balance the various plot threads well, knowing when to bring different ones to the fore but not allowing any to drift or be forgotten.
Characterisation is on a par with Shadows of War but feels better because we're more familiar with the likes of Mara, Josh, Zeus, et al. In fact the familiarity of the tale and the characters is one of things that made Edge of War more satisfying that Shadows. Greater time with all the recurring characters also allows them to grow. Josh for example, becomes a far more sympathetic individual than he was in 'Shadows'. The only character who doesn't really work is Jing Yo, the Chinese commando. Not only is he saddled with an inspid romantic sub-plot but he seems to have undergone something of a personality change since Shadows. Gone is the supremely competent, driven soldier, to be replaced by an emotionally fragile, uncertain figure. In many ways it would have been better if the authors had come up with a new character for his role in the story.
As with all of Bond and Defelice's collaborations, the military, political and espionage details feel plausible and the bursts of action are well written and suitably punchy. The open ending, although mildly frustrating, left me wanting to know what happens next.
The book as a whole also made me reevaluate Shadows of War. In my original review of that book I accused it of lacking punch and spending too much time getting going. I now realise that was the case because it was providing the prologue for one single story spread over four volumes. With the benefit of hindsight I can see now that it was entirely justified. In fact for those who can bear to wait I would possibly recommend hanging on until all four Red Dragon Rising volumes have been published and then reading the entire story back to back. Based on Edge of War I suspect that will provide a far more satisfying and entertaining experience than tackling it volume by volume.