STATE OF WAR by Ninotchka Rosca


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A brooding, emotion-packed but flawed first novel from a Philippine author with a previous short-story collection (The Monsoon Collection, 1981), whose best work to date remains her nonfiction Endgame (1987), a personalized commentary on Marcos' fall from power. In the book's promising start, three characters are en route to a bacchanalian festival on an unidentified Philippine island--and we know from the moment they hit shore that the occasion will provide a delirious setting in which a political drama is going on be played out. Adrian, an ingenuous heir to a corporate fortune, and his two companions, Anna and Eliza, seem prepared for celebration--but the mood very quickly buckles under the pressure of ulterior motives, and melancholy becomes the dominant tone. Adrian's father shows up at the festival with a consortium in league with the island's governor and with a scheme to convert a chunk of public lands into a money-making tourist operation. A sullen army official, Batoyan, stands in their way, however; but since Eliza is Batoyan's mistress, well, Adrian's father trusts that a deal can be struck. Complicating matters is Colonel Amor (a.k.a. The Loved One) who also has eyes for Eliza and has threatened to go public with Batoyan's successful career of graft. Anna, who has already been a detention-center victim of Amor's, believes that her guerrilla husband has been killed in a state crackdown, and arrives at the festival to participate in an insurgency action. As the festival builds to its apex, Adrian is among a group of dignitaries soon to receive a bomb that signals the start of a local revolt--with guns and blades materializing from under the costumes of the celebrants. In the end, the coincidences and implausibilities pile up too quickly--and a tacked-on epilogue, with a final check-in and body count, fails to bring this one to a satisfying conclusion, which is doubly disappointing owing to the promising kickoff.

Pub Date: May 16th, 1988
Publisher: Norton