Sunday, December 4, 2011

Far From the War by Jeffrey David Payne

Economic ruin and partisan rancor have pushed America to the brink of a new civil war. Esther is caught in the middle, serving as a page in the United States House of Representatives when rogue politicians and military leaders stage a modern day coup d'etat. When the coup turns violent, she abandons Washington, D.C. for home. She must learn to survive on her own as transportation and financial networks fail, as the war disrupts food and water supplies. The result is a cautionary tale about political extremism and the true cost of war. (from GoodReads)

I thought Far From the War was an interesting novel, though the execution could have used some work. It is more speculative fiction than dystopia, but fans of the latter will still find something to like in Far From the War.

I liked that Esther, the main character, was a page in for the House of Representatives. I love politics (and I know I'm in the minority here) so I would have loved to have Esther's job. I also like that the author wasn't afraid to give people positions and parties. Most authors try to stay away from politics but I like that Payne embraced it. I also couldn't tell if this book was supposed to be in the present or the future. Everything was the same except gas was $30 a gallon (whoa!) and Esther's parents make the comment that they were born 30 years too late to be hippies. Which would make them born in the 90s?? So I wish that was spelled out better.

Nowadays everyone says that the political rhetoric is too much and the two parties really need to get along so we can solve some of the nation's problems. In Far From the War, the two parties literally hate each other. No one gets along at all. It's supposed to be commentary on what can happen when vitrolic language is used daily but it was pretty weird.

Obviously you know from the summary that civil war breaks out, which is what makes this speculative. Even though the nation was falling apart, I still didn't get the feeling that things were all that bad. I wish the book had been a little bleaker for that extra punch. It was also hard to tell who the good and bad guys were in the war. Obviously, it's hard to pick from your fellow citizens but I never got a clear picture of what each group stood for. Looking back, Esther spends some time in a military hospital and I honestly cannot tell you which side she was staying with. I don't know if the ambiguity was on purpose or just a mistake.

The romance between Esther and Matthew, a soldier she meets, was cute on the surface but never went deeper than that. I can tell the author doesn't have much experience writing romance. Esther also needed some work. She was very plain and I didn't really care about her all that much.

Overall, Far From the War was an okay novel with an interesting premise. The execution needs some work but fans of apocalyptic lit might enjoy this.

6 out of 10.
FTC: sent by the author.

2011/Roche Harbor Books/366 pages

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