Monday, August 9, 2010

The Lonely War - reviewed by Bob Lind

One of my favorite, and one of the most respected, reviewers of GLBTQ-themed books is Bob Lind, who reviews for Echo Magazine. He recently posted a review of my novel, The Lonely War.

In a personal note on FB, Bob told me:
I must say, much like Island Song, this was one of the more ambitious novels I have seen over the years. If the average gay novel was a jigsaw puzzle (and it is, in some ways), it would have maybe 500 pieces (with many of the pieces used and re-used in many puzzles). Your novels seem to have ten times that, and completely original.

Bob Lind's review:
Andrew Waters is a Chinese-American young man, who grew up in China, schooled by Buddhist monks. His family is forced to leave China at the start of World War II, and he enlists in the Navy, where his personality and intellect make him clash with most of his shipmates. His latent homosexuality also surfaces, and he develops a strong crush on one of the officers, who empathizes with his situation. When the ship is destroyed and the crew is taken to a Japanese P.O.W. camp, Andrew makes the difficult decision to agree to become the base commander's lover, in exchange for food and medicine needed for his shipmates - including his crush, who was attacked by a shark in abandoning the ship. He tries to keep his role a secret, using the story that he is simply cooking for the commander, as he did on the ship. But his true role is revealed, and Andrew is ostracized as a traitor by most of the men. As the war starts to draw to a close, Andrew also learns of plans that could jeopardize all of their lives.

I first became aware of Chin through his "Island Song" novel, which I thought was exceptionally creative and emotional. This is in the same vein, with complete and realistic characterizations of both the ship's crew and their captors, reinforcing the truth that nobody really "wins" in a war. Andrew is torn by his sense of honor and need to excel, now tempered by the realization that some people won't like him, no matter what he does, and further complicated by his budding sexual attraction to an officer. It's a roller coaster of conflicts, fears and desires, all rolled together in a well-written war novel you won't be able to put down. Five stars out of five.

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