Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Review: The Valley by John Renehan

Title: The Valley
Author: John Renehan
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Pages: 448
Genre: Thriller, Military Thriller
Source: ARC from the publisher

The Valley
There were many valleys in the mountains of Afghanistan, and most were hard places where people died hard deaths. But there was only one Valley. Black didn't even know its proper name. But he knew about the Valley. It was the farthest, and the hardest, and the worst. It lay deeper and higher in the mountains than any other place Americans had ventured. You had to travel through a network of interlinked valleys, past all the other remote American outposts, just to get to its mouth. Stories circulated periodically, tales of land claimed and fought for, or lost and overrun, new attempts made or turned back, outposts abandoned and reclaimed. They were impossible to verify. Everything about the Valley was myth and rumour.

The strung-out platoon Black finds after travelling deep into the heart of the Valley, and the illumination of the dark secrets accumulated during month after month fighting and dying in defence of an indefensible piece of land, provide a shattering portrait of men at war.

This is not a book I would have ordinarily have been interested in just by reading the blurb - I was so glad I gave it a chance.

Lieutenant Black is living a fairly mundane life as part of military administration on an U.S. base in Afghanistan. He has become somewhat disillusioned with his military career, when he is sent to a remote command post in one of the huge valleys in the Nuristan mountains. Black is tasked with investigating a warning shot fired in a nearby village, pretty mundane stuff for routine paperwork. Of course not all is what it seems there...

I loved this book pretty much as soon as I started to read it, I found the descriptions of military life and procedures absolutely fascinating. I loved how everything was explained simply, as I knew pretty much nothing about the U.S. Army. The book really gripped me, I was dying to know just what the heck was going on at the command post - sadly as the book reached its conclusion I was left scratching my head.

There are a lot of revelations to keep track of, I didn't really understand why some events were significant. Who was actually involved in what, and what the heck did that all mean and why was it a problem. Also there was a lot of mistaken identity, by the end of book I didn't understand who was supposed to be who. It was just confusing. Also there is a huge italic part near the end that I couldn't work out. Was that a flashback? What was the deal with the professor? So confused!

Great subject matter, convoluted conclusion. I came away from this book feeling I had missed something, or several something's.

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