A red flare shot into the sky telling the Marines to return to the landing zone for departure.
Ethan trembled and shook himself as if he were a wet dog, then rolled over beside her instead of on top of her. She smelled the coppery scent of his blood. “Hell!” he said, and pushed her into a narrow space between clumps of bamboo. “After I cover you, stay here until we are gone. Why are you here? This is not where you live. You should be washing clothes at Luu’s where you will be safer.”
No one is ever safe anywhere, she thought, and then said, “Ethan?” The tears in her eyes blurred her vision. She reached for him, wanting him to take her away from this war, but he slipped out of her reach.
Summary: In this suspense thriller set during the Vietnam War, Victor Ortega is a rogue CIA agent, and he needs someone to blame for his crimes. Recon Marine Ethan Card is the perfect patsy. As a teen, Ethan ran with a Chicago street gang, and he has a criminal record. He also has a secret lover, Tuyen, who is half Vietnamese and half French.
My thoughts: A fair warning: this book is not for the squeamish. There’s a lot of sex, violence and lot of swearing. All the gory details are bound to make anyone queasy, they are haunting and described vividly.
I liked Ethan Card, for the way he was neither all bad nor all good. At times, I was completely annoyed by him. The characters, Ethan included, were realistic. Sure, the villians were inexplicably mean and cruel but the protagonists weren’t all angels either. The relationship between Ethan and Tuyen seemed abrupt in the first fifty something pages, when so many things happened so quickly. But the relationship is dwelt on later, and it sort of grows into something believable: a desperate grasp at some sort of meaning or purpose in such a terrifying world. Two people falling in love, having an affair, running off together is just cheesy enough to ring true. The author relies majorly, according to me, on dialogue to take the story forward and is one of the few authors I have read who can write good dialogue. For Ortega, I found the characteristic way he talked to be a bit limited, and therefore, unrealistic; in contrast, Tuyen’s speech is written wonderfully.
The chapters and scenes are very short and the story is constantly spiralling off into something new. There are a lot of details, many minor characters to focus on, so I needed to pay attention closely while reading. It’s not a breezy read and wouldn’t be enjoyed when distracted. I liked the descriptions of the different locations, how there were little information dumps. But I notice far too many similes, to describe just about everything. I do know that a good metaphor is a sign of a good author, but after a while they seemed kind of silly, nothing was straightforward bad or big or loud.
The book was very fast and I could read it within a few days. It had me engaged completely from the very first chapter and I was certainly curious to see how things would turn out. The violence did turn me off a bit and I wish there was less of that. But, hey, you can’t exactly change the war. So which it was a little too much, I appreciated that it seemed realistic. The book wasn’t biased on any side of the war and the author has sort of left us to wonder about all the things he’s written, not really presenting us with one opinion but a swarm of them to choose from. It seems like he’s written what he really does know, and that is why, it is easy to ignore any flaws that come to mind: because, the book is honest. It isn’t just another action-packed, adventure, thriller but has something more to offer. And you rarely get to say that with a review copy, so I’m certainly glad I got the chance to read this. You can buy a copy of Running With the Enemy here.
I got an email a few days ago, and another, saying Running with the Enemy was awarded Runner Up in General Fiction at the 2013 Beach Book Festival and honorable mention general fiction at the 2013 New York Book Festival recently and I’ve to say I’m not surprised. Books about wars all seem to be almost the same and this one offers a new perspective of sorts. It’s not the best book I’ve ever read, but it’s nice and I am sure many will love it.
If I had to give this a rating, which I suppose I do (this is a blog tour), it’d be somewhere between three and four stars.
I received this book in exchange for an honest review. For more reviews, view the Tour Schedule at the Virtual Authors Book Tours website.