When I was first introduced to this book, I thought it might fall alongside books such as Grunts, by Mary Gentile, books that show a story from the “other side.” Sidekicks of villains rarely have a place in the sun and usually end up in dire straits as the good guys triumph. When I started reading, though, I saw a lot more of Terry Pratchett in it, but if this book is any indication, Stephen Brophy can give the esteemed Mr. Pratchett a run for his money.
This book is taut, well-edited, and well-crafted. Characterization is detailed without being tedious, and the storyline quickly draws the reader in. There is a good deal of literary tension that qualifies this book as a page-turner. On top of that, it is darn funny. The humor, though, does not get in the way of the plot, as it does in so many other books, but rather supports it. While it echoes Pratchett to an extent in the feel of the humor, where Pratchett elicits his humor in action and general observations, Brophy’s humor centers on the personal thoughts and attributes of the protagonist. To me, that brings a deeper relevancy to the humor. I could identify with it.
Duke “HandCannon” LaRue is a bad guy, have no doubt about that. He is an ex-con, a crook, a killer (although he’s killed fewer times than someone might suspect.) He isn’t concerned about what his boss, Dr. Eye, might do with an item he’s sent to retrieve. On the other hand, he dotes on his diabetic cat, Miss Lady, and loves his six-year-old daughter. He has the same problems as so many of us have—an ex-spouse, paying for a mortgage for a house in which he no longer lives, a job that interferes with his domestic life. He may be a baddie, but we can relate to him. I think that is a key to the book, and when Handcannon says he’s a bad dad for something he’s about to do, we’ve all been in that type of situation.
This is a funny book, but it is not just a platform for one-liners. There was nary a weak spot, and I enjoyed every page. This is one of the very best books I’ve read this year, and I give it my highest recommendation.
About the reviewer:
Jonathan Brazee is a retired Marine infantry colonel who after years of writing non-fiction, wrote his first novel while serving in Iraq. He independently published it, hoping to sell a few copies to friends and family, and was pleasantly surprised when the book gained traction among the general reading public. Twenty-three novels later, he is now winding down his post-military career overseas to become a full-time writer. A majority of his books have a military bent in science fiction, paranormal, historical fiction, and general fiction, but he has also written non-military scifi and paranormal. He writes three to four hours each day with the help (or despite) the attention of two rescue cats who insist on sitting on his lap or keyboard.
Jonathan is a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, the US Naval Academy Alumni Association, the Disabled Veterans of America, and is an officer in the VFW’s Department of the Pacific.
Learn more about Jonathan and his work at http://www.jonathanbrazee.com