Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Review of The Ninja and the Diplomat

The following is a recent review in Goodreads and Amazon of The Ninja and the Diplomat, vol. 2 of my series, The Chinese Spymaster. Volumes 1 and 2 have already been published - see the tab "Books" above; volume three is planned for end 2017, early 2018. This review by Michael Brandt is reproduced with the author's kind permission. As the writer, I am glad of any attention to my books and especially appreciative of positive reviews.

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I knew I would enjoy this book as soon as I read "The tyranny of Aristotelian unities." This a politically rich thriller involving the intersection of weapons dealing, intelligence services, and geopolitical unrest set in multiple East Asian countries. Despite how those first two sentences must sound, this is a fast-paced story with plenty of physical action.

The writing is solid throughout, and downright masterful in parts. It is mostly purely functional, which keeps the pacing progressing rapidly. I personally would have preferred if it had slowed down and the author eased away from the functional to show some more of his flair and extend individual scenes. In this way, some smaller dramas and conflicts could be added to bring individual chapters more to life and augment the overarching one, and certain emotional scenes could be intensified. But that's a purely personal preference that not all readers would agree with.

The POV bounces between quite a few characters, some more identifiable than others. In some places I got the sense that the characters were less important than the content, which is educational and insightful. It effectively shows real and complex political issues from differing perspectives. If you prefer your politics in black-and-white and your fiction in good-versus-evil, you might not like this, but if you recognize reality then the style should appeal to you.

I was prepared to be annoyed by the inclusion of a ninja, which most media presents in a farcical caricature of reality. But to my relief, the author handles it well, providing a reasonable explanation of his presence and presentation of his abilities.

Might be a little hard for readers unfamiliar with the history and geopolitics of the region. As a former student of international relations, I found it quite interesting. The author provides a helpful map, but I still found myself wondering whether readers unfamiliar with things such as the circumstances and consequences of the American occupation of The Philippines could be thrown off.

Overall, I'd recommend this to readers who enjoy spy thrillers and anyone with even the slightest interest in Asian geopolitics.

Here is a link to the review on Goodreads
and another to the same review on Amazon