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Monday, April 6, 2015

Holy War by Mike Bond Review

Holy War by Mike Bond.

I bought Mike Bond’s Tibetan Cross in both pb and Kindle. Mike Bond books have excellent plots. Unfortunately, Bond’s punctuation, narrative style, and dialogue are radically different from the American idiom I’m used to reading. Lots of ellipses and half-finished sentences. Too many exclamation points. Mike Bond is a superb writer, but his style takes some getting used to.

            What Bond does best is to describe action, and there’s plenty of action in Holy War. Bond’s short, clipped sentences capture the fleeting impressions of bullets and bomb blasts, the noises of war, so perfectly you think the bullets and bombs are aimed directly at you. Fleeting images of flying shrapnel and body parts illuminate the landscape of war-torn Beirut. You get the feeling that you are actually there, experiencing first-hand the hellishness of war. The first several chapters, unfortunately, are split between Beirut, London, and Paris. The next several chapters take readers on a leisurely tour of Europe as Neill and Andre make their way south toward Lebanon. You get the sense that everything is moving toward a bang-up conclusion. You just don’t want to wait to get there.

            Shifting settings and points of view can be distracting until you get various characters, relationships, timelines, and philosophies straight in your mind. Everyone in Beirut kills everyone else over religion, and nowhere in Beirut is safe. Add the fact that not everyone is who or what they claim to be—Rosa, for example, claims to be pregnant but she isn’t—and you begin to understand what it’s like to live in a war zone where confusion reigns.

            Alternating viewpoint characters include Andre, a Frenchman who lost a brother to the war; Rosa, a Palestinian who relocated to Lebanon after the Israeli invasion of Gaza; Neill, a British journalist and inveterate womanizer who wants to interview Mohammad; Mohammad, a Lebanese Muslim (Hezbollah) resistance leader; Mohammad’s wife, Layla, a former girlfriend of Neill’s. What compounds confusion for westerners are the number of factions fighting in Lebanon. Muslims can be Sunni, Shi’a, or Druze. Christians can be Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, Coptic, or Maronite. Although the Maronite church merged with Roman Catholicism in the sixteenth century, Lebanese-born Maronites are much closer to Arabic Muslims in ethnic identity than they are to Europeans. Complicating things further is the existence of Israel and the world-wide Jewish Diaspora. The creation of the state of Israel and the subsequent dislocation of Palestinians is the 800-pound gorilla thrown into the mix.

            Of course things are further complicated by the involvement of MI6 and French Intelligence.

            Holy War is a complex, convoluted, and controversial look at war in the Middle East from various viewpoints. Personalities, interpersonal relationships, and international conspiracies always make things more complex, convoluted, and controversial. Bond tries to depict the futility of war and the terrible toll war takes on everyone caught in the crossfire. I couldn’t stop reading, and I learned some things about history, middle-eastern politics, and human foibles in the process. Holy War is a worthwhile read, not a fun read. War is supposed to be hell, not fun.



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