Top critical review
Weighed down with detail
on 24 December 2011
It must be my perennial lot to come upon books some time after they have been published. This is no exception but it is still currently on sale so perhaps there is value in giving an opinion now that the dust has settled.
Credit where it's due, this book is well written in a technical sense. Throughout the whole of the book I found only one minor typographical error. There may have been others but if so I missed them. However Mr. Seymour would (either intentionally or unintentionally) misuse the word 'basha' preferring the more comic 'basher'. This may be the way soldiers pronounce it but it is not the way it is generally spelt. He also seemed somewhat confused as to what a basha is. It is a Malay word for shelter and in British military argot is usually a groundsheet or poncho hooked between two trees with bungees and easily camouflaged. In this book I feel Seymour has confused it with a LUP, or lying-up position. Easily done if you have no military background to call your own.
The story itself is an update on the Cold War with the modern equivalent of the KGB, the FSB, coming in for a sound drubbing from Seymour's pen (as does the 'modern' Secret Intelligence Service). It seeems the Russians are still at their old Soviet tricks of mistreating and murdering anyone thought of as a traitor to the Motherland. The book is full of historical references; Seymour goes as far as putting anecdotes about Kaliningrad on the Polish/Russian border as a header to each chapter. It is this fiendish attention to detail which tends to derail the enjoyment of what otherwise would have been a page turner. Sadly never once whilst reading did I ache to continue, giving up at the end of each chapter with no hurry to pick up where I left off. Seymour is adept at putting the reader inside his protagonist's heads but sometimes it's not a good place to be as thought patterns tend to meander in loose connections and slow contemplations like a river decaying into oxbows as it reaches flat coastal plains.
This won't put me off Seymour. I shall try some of his contemporary works before making a definitive judgement on his style of writing. From reading previous novels, which I've enjoyed, he has always had a tendency to over-complicate but in this book it has reached a peak of indulgence. Not one of his better works.