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Friday, September 14, 2018

What I’m Reading: Burning Sky


Today I have a title that has wide appeal for fans of military stories, horror, and the popular subgenre of military-horror. Ochse is a stellar creator in this area and since this title is the start of a brand new series, I suggest you get familiar with this one ASAP.

Burning Sky.

Ochse, Weston (author).
Sept. 2018. 420p. Solaris, paper, $14.99 (9781781085295)
First published September 15, 2018 (Booklist).
The members of the Tactical Support Team [TST], Army veterans turned private contractors, experienced some horrifying and improbable things during their last assignment in Afghanistan. Now, six months later, these men and women are experiencing things too strange, terrifying and eerily similar to be classified as PTSD. Ochse, a veteran and critically acclaimed author, begins his new military horror series by introducing readers to the members of TST, unveiling their diverse and complex backstories, before sending them back for the ultimate mission, a fight for their souls. This is a dark, twisted, and unnerving cosmic horror thriller framed by Middle Eastern mythology, that slowly escalates the unease, plot and dread, while constantly increasing the pacing and action, reaching a point where it is almost impossible to put the book down, but at the same time, it is also a thoughtful commentary on what war does to all of its participants. Military horror is emerging as a popular subgenre and this is an excellent entry sure to satisfy those who want the army details and jargon equally as those who desire a well constructed supernatural thriller. Perfect for fans of Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger series, but also, Ochse has a command of the beauty that can found in the language of brutality such as in the writing of Cormac McCarthy.
Further Appeal: I cannot stress enough how the occult elements here never overwhelm the real life horrors of war, rather they serve to underscore the terror and make it feel even more real. Even readers who usually like realistic military fiction, but want a more modern war setting will enjoy this. The cosmic horror elements are incorporated into the frame of Middle Eastern mythology, and the way Ochse introduces them, it feel real; like it could happen. The pairing of the realism and supernatural is seamless, so much so that it makes the book scarier.

I also liked the use of jargon. There is plenty for those in the know but not too much for lay people. Overall this is a great horror novel AND a love letter to servicemen and women who have toured in Afghanistan.

The novel begins very character centered, giving the reader details into the background of each member fo the team. While this technically slows the pacing of the action down, the novel is compelling from page one. Not only is the reader turning the pages to learn as much about these interesting characters as possible, but also, their situations are so tense that just with the character development the tension builds to the point that you need a break but can’t bare to take one. You must keep going to see what happens next.

One the plot gets going, the interesting Middle Eastern frame and the plot twists are excellent while the prose is beautiful even though it is often used to describe horrific things. And there is more to come as this is just the start of a series; in fact, be ready for people to finish and ask for book 2.

Three Words That Describe This Book: Price of War, Unnerving, Plot Twists

Readalikes: The best match is the Joe Ledger series mentioned above. I also mention Cormac McCarthy because the entire story is framed by the novel Blood Meridian but also, the writing itself is similar. If you like the way McCarthy writes, this novel is a great suggestion.

Fans of literary fiction about war, especially post-9/11 wars and its effects on veterans is also a great option like Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Fountain or The Yellow Birds by Powers.

Books set in Afghanistan and told from the local perspective might also be of interest here. Khaled Hosseini is a mainstream option, but check out this page of books tagged “Afghanistan”by readers on Goodreads.

You could also give this book to fans of military SF for which there is A LOT. Again via Goodreads. Really anyone who likes military fiction as it is crafted within any genre might enjoy this novel. Click here to find another long list

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