'Our Sins' by Geoff M. Pereira
Military fiction set in South Africa
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Our Sins is one of those interesting books you only get a look at if you're willing to take a look at small press or independent writing. Military fiction is one of the biggest sub-genres out there, but once I stopped and thought about it, I realized all the military fiction I've read has dealt with US military. Our Sins is set in South Africa, so it gives you a whole different look. Suffice it to say, this book provides a much different perspective than District 9.
Our Sins follows the adventures of Specialist Insurgency Neutralization Squad Officer Lieutenant Ray Pike. The beginning structure of the novel had a little more backstory than I prefer, but it was handled well. We learn about Pike and how he was recruited for his elite squad. Recruitment involved a lot of heavy drinking in shadowy bars. Those are the kind of places I like.
Our Sins has the thrills, action, and intrigue you'd expect from a military thriller. The plot involves the pursuit of a well-developed villain with stakes that threaten to cast South Africa's relationship with the US into turmoil.
The author of Our Sins, Geoff M. Pereira, served in the South African military from 1980 to 1985, and you get the sense that some of this book was informed by his true life experiences. Sometimes, I think you get a better sense of a person from the fiction they write than from a biographical text. The author's background adds an authenticity to this work which sheds light on the similarities and differences among military groups throughout the world.
Most Americans have read some Tom Clancy at one point or another, and although that's more intelligence-based than ground-based fiction, Clancy influences a lot of military writing. That's why it's refreshing to read something like Our Sins which approaches the topic matter with a different perspective.
I liked the military jargon in the dialogue scenes, it had a familiar tempo but utilized some phrases and wording that I've never seen before.
I found the structure of the book to be unconventional. There are 16 chapters and most of them are broken up into three or more subsections. The result is well-organized, but it might have worked better if each subsection became an independent chapter. The result would be Kurt Vonnegut style with tons of short chapters, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Military books, like James Bond movies, get much of their appeal from the locales where the action takes place. Our Sins takes us through South Africa and gives you a couple ideas of places you might want to research and add to your bucket list.
Overall, I liked Our Sins. The book is raw in a way that I enjoyed and it's got that independent quality that you just don't know what's going to happen next. So many of the offerings from big publishers are afraid to take risks, or are used to promote some sort of agenda. That's not the case here.
Our Sins has a certain authenticity springing as it does from the mind of a veteran of the South African Border War. The writing is effective and the dialogue is engaging. If you're one of those people who is sick of seeing the same old two or three plots constantly recycled by major publishers, then give this one a look.