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especially the fervent wish that once in a while the Minster of Defence could be a former soldier - and preferably one who serve
on 2 August 2014
Settle down with a glass, reader, this review might go on for a while…
I feel well qualified to comment on Andy Farman’s Armageddon’s Song series (despite only being two boks in), since I’m not only a fellow author but a man with a deep affection for the genre. From Hackett to Coyle I’ve read them all, and when I saw the series on Amazon I was unable to resist. To be very clear, unlike Andy I didn’t serve apart from a stint in the university OTC whose only real value was to convince me that the SLR was God’s own rifle. I do however share many of his evident beliefs, especially the fervent wish that once in a while the Minster of Defence could be a former soldier - and preferably one who served at too low a level to have been sucked up by our very inefficient version of the military industrial complex.
I did foresee a problem, however. Andy’s books are *shiver* self published. My worry was mainly qualitative - many self pubs really are dire, and sorting the chaff for the odd corker is a task I’d promised myself I’d avoid. But I had to give it a go. And no, I’m not snobbish about self pub, I think it’s brilliant that so many people have got out from under the tyranny of what the publishers think their readers want, this sereis being a likely case in point. As a man who wrote to his MP in fury when the Coalition cancelled the Nimrod project (although I’ve subsequently read Empire of the Clouds and found out the reason why, which makes horrible but logical sense) I still take a deep interest in the military of all branches, have a Lee Enfield in my rifle collection and just eat that alternative history/WW3 s*** with a spoon.
So, what did I find?
Plot: Strong, inventive, pretty realistic (I have no idea if the Spetsnaz really are capable, but it all sounds credible) and good enough to drag the reader right in. And I’m used to looking at fiction with a jaundiced eye as I see straight through plots. Not this one! Sometimes a little far fetched, like the slightly artificial means by which the British PM gets changed at short notice, but I can forgive that. And, joy of joys, he kills characters routinely, chopping the reader off at the knees just when they’ve come to love them even when perhaps they shouldn’t.
Characterisation: Good. Sometimes a bit hackneyed (I’ve had the same criticisms, so I feel no superiority in saying that), but often plain brilliant.
Dialogue: More than good enough.
This is a great series, well worth a read, and I’m in it to the finish.
What didn’t I like, given this is *only* a four star review?
There have been some comments as to how realistic the air and sea battles are, but to be fair to Andy he does tell us very clearly that he’s not an expert in either. And neither am I, which is probably why they didn’t trouble me.
I struggled a bit with some of the biases that Andy showcases. A thirty year old female Minister of Defence as one of the bad guys? Not likely. (Now watch some idiot like Milliband prove me wrong). And I doubt the Civil Service would have tolerated that sort of behaviour… (see my previous comment!). Andy’s clearly tapping a rich vein of often merited anger as to politicians’ and some senior officers’ outlooks and cynicism, and while I share that desire for our armed forces to stop getting the s***ty end of the stick at the level where the loud noises and fast moving metal are to be found, it’s sometimes just a bit too strident (in that it stops me loving the story and starts me thinking about the writing process). I’ve no doubt that the ARRSE lads love the books, and I can see why. And I did love the return to service of the SLR…
And the editing. Andy, your books seriously need an edit. Changes in tense are really f***ing irritating half way through a sentence. If I could read it from cover to cover without the grinding of mental gears I get from that sort of thing I’d have 5 starred it.
But with that out of the way I’m delighted to have found the series. I hardly ever review, and the fact that I’m doing this is an indicator as to how much I’m enjoying it. The politically correct will probably hate it, and since publishing is 90% female I’m not sure that it could ever get published, unless of course enough people buy it to raise interest among the people paid to look out for that sort of thing, but who cares? We love this sort of book, and we’re loving it
Well done Mr Farman.