Sometimes you wind up being disappointed in a writer you usually really enjoy. Such is the case with Jeffrey Thomas’ Blue War, which I found muddled.
Stake does, of course, have his charms as a character, including his connection to a lineage going back to every hardboiled detective in the history of literature. However, his relationship with Thi Gonh not only isn’t convincing as written, it takes up too much space in the novel. The fragmented English spoken by the Vietnamese-like Gonh includes lines like “Sometimes his milk come out before his baby go inside my baby” (in discussing her horrible husband). It also stretches the imagination that Gonh, a celebrated and deadly sniper, would be as simple as portrayed by Thomas. Worse, the reader doesn’t believe for a moment that Gonh would allow her husband to abuse her. A similar problem dogs the portrait of the scientist Pattaya, who addresses everyone as “cutie” and in general gives the reader no indication she is anything other than a bubblehead. The effect of these decisions is to slow down a novel that needs speed and action to be fully successful.