L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

28 June 2006 Blog Home : June 2006 : Permalink

"Choosers of the Slain" by John Ringo

This book is the third in a series of thrillers from John Ringo and Baen Books and the series keeps on getting better. Both author and publisher otherwise produce fantasy and science fiction so this is somewhat of a departure. It is however a very enjoyable departure and, arguably, still meets the "fantasy" qualification, even though it is set in something very similar to the world we know today.

When I reviewed this book's immediate predecessor "Kildar", I stated that it needed to be bought and read in conjunction with this book because it left off half-way. This book, however, does have a definite conclusion and I think it would be just about possible to read this book without having read either of the preceding books but I would not recommend it. Even though the characterization, dialog etc. in this book is far superior to that in the previous two, there are too many references to events in the previous works that require more than the brief summaries provided to be comprehensible (in the eARC that I am basing this review on there are also an annoying number of inconsistencies - presumably most have been fixed in the final version).

In Choosers of the Slain, the Kildar aka Ghost aka Mike Harmon/Jenkins ... takes his newly trained private militia on a wild goose chase through the depths of the East European underworld in search of a girl who has been taken into sex slavery against her will. After a number of fascinating plot twists and turns, including a surreal jump to Las Vegas, the tale comes to a satisfying end with the damsel(s) rescued from durance vile, the good guys mostly alive and the bad guys either dead or wishing they were.

As with the previous books, John Ringo intentionally makes no attempt at accuracy in historical, geographical or political terms - the explanation in the FAQ for the series on his website makes this clear:
There is no semblance of reality in this book. I deliberately wrote it ignoring any reality that got in the way of the story. That's not how I normally write, but I did so in this story and will continue to do so in the rest of the books in this series.
However he does take a little more care in his depiction of entrapment, the sex-trade, and how to recover from rape. Indeed, although this series is about as un-PC as it is possible to be, the depiction of the sex industry as effectively mass, repeated rape is probably something that most feminists would agree with and, while he clearly exaggerates for dramatic effect, the stories that one reads in the newspapers about abused Eastern European sex-workers in Western Europe show that he is basing his description on a genuine situation. On the other hand he also makes good clear arguments that explain why, for some women, becoming a prostitute may be better than remaining at home on the farm, essentially putting Thomas Hardy's "The Ruined Maid"  into prose.

The Kildar's reaction to the bad part of the sex trade - killing the worst pimps and the most abusive clients - while it is appealing to the uncivilized part of us, does not represent a real-life solution where such deaths would lead to some really nasty repercussions. Indeed one suspects that the Kildar is storing up a significant number of additional enemies to come back and hit him in future volumes.

As with its predecessors, this book has lots of graphic, and sometimes disturbing, sex and violence, however despite a rather dark theme and gory action it also has moments of exquisite humor that break the tension as well as points of saccharine  romance. All in all this is a book that makes for not only a gripping and highly enjoyable read but one which could, possibly, have some sort of worthwhile underlying message in it as well.

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin