Saturday, October 26, 2019

The Wall by John Lanchester

THE WALL by John Lanchester falls into a genre that I call "unapologetic lad-lit." It's written for men, and doesn't really make any secret about it; the manly-man protagonist plows his way through the story with his testosterone-charged mediocrity, and all of the women who should be out of his league but aren't end up falling for his oh so average charms. There's also war, too, of course. I definitely got a STARSHIP TROOPERS vibe from this book, with a bit of Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD. It's war with the meandering pace of McCarthy (although without McCarthy's aversion to punctuation, thank God), and more about the ops elements than high-octane battle scenes drenched in derring-do and copious amounts of alien blood.

It was, in a word, boring.

I think THE WALL could have been a good book. My impression of THE WALL is that it is set in a post-apocalyptic future where the sea levels have risen dangerously and there might be a Nuclear winter (wasn't sure why it was so cold where the hero was if it was hot enough to met the seas; this aspect of the book wasn't explained super well). Resources are scarce, so this knock-off group of Black Watch soldiers man the wall and keep out The Others.

It seems easy enough, but it isn't. Because people are desperate, and when people are desperate they do ugly things. Joseph Kavanagh (poor choice of last name, imo), is the newest recruit to the Wall. He bonds with his team and learns the way things run and most importantly, he learns how to attack and defend against the Others who want to get over the wall and kill them all. But then he learns that, as with any government, not everything you think know about the current situation is truth.

THE WALL's biggest weakness is that it doesn't feel like a fully developed story. Is it political commentary against the current president of the U.S. and his dreams of a border wall? Is it a treatise on the importance of stopping global warming and preventing water and resource wars? Is it just supposed to be a dystopian fiction work of militaristic lad-lit, to be consumed and enjoyed and hopefully turned into a movie one day with actors who used to be in B-movie action films? This was not clear, and that lack of clarity really sank the book for me and caused the storyline to suffer.

Overall, this wasn't really for me. I read a lot of science-fiction, old and new, and this was not something that stood out to me in any way. It actually reminded me a lot of a book I read called SOFT APOCALYPSE, which had lofty ideas but didn't know how to execute them.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!  

2 out of 5 stars

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