A complex novel of the past and the future, fathers and sons, war and redemption, and the devastating impact of large-scale...

A Soldier's Son

A Vietnam veteran wrestles with the demons of his war as his son goes off to fight in Iraq.

In this debut novel, Estes (A Field of Innocence, 1987) introduces Mike Kelly, an angry and occasionally violent Vietnam veteran–turned-journalist. His relationship with his teenage son Jake is fraught with conflict over sports and expectations, and Mike’s wife, Claire, is prepared to walk out if he continues to avoid getting needed treatment and therapy at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital. In addition, Mike’s editor is losing patience with his inconsistent performance at the paper. When Jake joins the Marines, Mike wants to protect his son from repeating his wartime experiences but slowly accepts that he cannot stop the youth from deploying to Iraq in the early years of the war there. Instead, Mike decides to follow, traveling to the war zone as an embedded journalist. Jake resents his father’s presence, seeing it as one more attempt at controlling his life, but when the two are caught in a battle together, their relationship is strengthened through fighting side by side. Estes skillfully presents the effects of war on families, both in the moment (Claire and Jake’s girlfriend, Megs, are involved in anti-war protests) and decades after the conflict has ended, through the flashbacks and terrors that Mike contends with on a daily basis. The characters are rich and complex, with occasional bursts of witty dialogue (“Its classrooms are bulging with the leaders of tomorrow, who often are the smartasses of today”). Battle scenes are vividly drawn, keeping the reader caught up in the action (“Jake stops, sand beating at his front, kneels, and sets the butt of his gun in the sand, balancing it against his body”) and Estes’ firsthand knowledge of the experience of war. (The author is a Vietnam veteran.) At the same time, the locker-room nature of Jake’s conversations with his friends and the depiction of the Marines in Iraq can be excessive, closer to tedious vulgarity than to stark realism.

A complex novel of the past and the future, fathers and sons, war and redemption, and the devastating impact of large-scale violence on both the perpetrators and the victims.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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