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Rogue Forces – Dale Brown – [Book Review]

Coverless edition of Rogue Forces
All these reviews are lies

I’m not usually one for hyperbole, but Rogue Forces may well be the worst book of all time. It’s certainly the dullest and most ineptly written trash I’ve ever come across. Certainly, whoever was reading it before me was so embarrassed, they tore the front cover off.

Why is it so awful? It’s difficult to know where to start, there’s so much to choose from.

Before I begin, you may say: “It’s just a military thriller – what did you expect?” But I’m sorry, genre is no excuse for any novel to be so hideously appalling.

Pulp friction

The story – for what it’s worth – is about a high-tech arms dealer offering their services to the Americans on the Iraqi-Turkish border. When a Kurdish wedding gets bombed and a female soldier survives, she takes revenge on the Turkish government, who retaliate over Iraqi soil. The shit hits the fan, and Scion Aviation International gets called in to assist the Americans to broker a peace.

Jeepers! Sounds exciting!

At least it would be, if it was handled by a writer, and not just a hack.

Let’s begin with the fundamentals: the most glaring problem is that there’s no one to root for. There’s the Kurdish nationalists, who you unintentionally root for the most, despite being a terrorist group and having no developed characters. Or there’s the Turks, who all seem like heartless bastards; or the Iraqis, mostly spineless morons; or the American military, who are helpless and ineffective; and then there’s the greedy, meddling corporate arms dealers.

Are we seriously expected to side with the dubious intentions of an arms dealer? Are we supposed to say, “Oh, they’re just trying to save the world and make an honest living at the same time.” No. They can sod off, the lot of them.

That’s the thing: I don’t give a monkey’s who wins, who dies, or who gets terribly maimed along the way, because none of them mean anything to me. They’re all just nodes from which reactions might be wrought.

Catalogue of shits

There’s a “useful” character list at the front, but I haven’t needed to refer to a character list since reading A Hundred Years of Solitude. Lofty aspirations perhaps? Or is it just military protocol to include a manifest?

Whatever, no one changes in this book. No one comes to any kind of understanding or realisation. No one has a real emotional response. Apart from the many deaths along the way – which are counted but never dwelled upon – there is no consequence in this 400 pages of stuff and things happening.

Neither is there any theme to bind it all together – aside from violence I suppose. The book’s blurb does a better job than Brown, suggesting that corporations involving themselves in international border disputes is a frightening prospect – but you don’t glean that from the book itself. If anything, Scion repeatedly saves the day, like a team of Thunderbirds. The characters are certainly as wooden.

Fool me once…

I found out later that this is the 15th installment of Brown’s Patrick McLanahan series – and yet I was never aware he was the protagonist. He’s just a bloke who does things and speaks like a teenager, despite being an ex-general and the founder of a high-tech weapons company.

This brings me to the dialogue, which makes up around 90% of the narrative. There are several reasons why it is so overwhelmingly poor. Here are some examples:

  • Adults speaking like teenagers. Here is the President of the United States, barking orders at his staff, in the style of a 12-year-old with no experience of holding office:

“Someone messed up here, and I want to know who, and I want some butts – Turkish, Iraqi, PKK, or Americans, I don’t care, I want some butts.”

  • Mentioning things the other character already knows, but the reader doesn’t. This is not a good way to convey back-story to your audience. It is clunky, unrealistic and sounds like it was written in a child’s creative writing exam. Here’s a conversation between a husband and wife, who know absolutely everything about each other, but insist on stating things they both already know:

“I haven’t picked up a rifle in years since I left the peshmerga militias in Kirkuk… Perhaps I need more lessons from a former High Commune of Women commander.”

“I have a family to raise and a house to take care of – I put in my time in the Kurdistan independence movement. Let the younger women do some fighting for a change.”

  • Out-of-character words. Here’s an army base commander addressing his staff with the kind of indignation a child might imagine of an officer figure:

“The operative word here is observe, kiddies,” Wilhelm cut in.

This torrent of garbage is further exasperated by its relentless monotony. Every event is initially planned, then witnessed and finally reflected upon by everyone in turn. You read the same twaddle over and over and over, until finally something else happens. And then the cycle repeats.

Brown is also fond of dialogue tags; these are verbs that bad writers use to replace “said” wherever possible – like “concluded”, “opined”, “berated” etc. It stems from high-school English teachers trying to coax some vocabulary from their students. But from a published author, it’s shameful. Some corkers here include “groused” and “growled”.

The horror…

For a taste of how bad Brown’s writing is, let’s take this Earth-shatteringly bad line as an example:

“Can we please get on with this?” Stacy Anne Barbeau suddenly blurted perturbedly.

For a start, the word “suddenly” is arguably redundant, seeing as it’s hard to “blurt” with forethought. Secondly, if he must use “blurted”, it’s hardly requiring a further adverb to clarify how she blurted. Finally, the word “perturbedly” should be dragged out of the dictionary (if it indeed it exists) and hung from its neck until dead.

You’ll also notice the use of her full name, including middle name. Terrified of word repetition, Brown is constantly changing how people should be addressed. Patrick McLanahan; Patrick; McLanahan; General; General Patrick McLanahan; Scion partner and president Lieutenant-General Patrick McLanahan – SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP.

And it crops up in dialogue too; people referring to each other – friends, colleagues – by their full name (including middle names). Real people don’t do this, other than your Mum telling you off.

Meanwhile, the military detail is meticulous to the point of exasperation. The book lists every procedure and protocol for, say, a flight’s landing or the launch of a missile, which can go on for pages as every officer receives and confirms their orders. This does not make action suspenseful or exciting. Quite the opposite. (Admittedly, I suppose, this may be tantalising for military buffs.)

Dead end

Finally, the ending is so inexcusably bad, I’m forced to detail it in full. So, for those idiots still thinking about reading this unimaginable bollocks, spoilers follow.

The battle-weary Turkish General Ozek has returned home amid much fanfare, despite a failed campaign to indiscriminately slaughter Kurds in neighbouring Iraq. The welcome seems real, “Men and women looked google-eyed at him,” apparently, “as if he were some rock star”. Google-eyed, of course, meaning their eyes were searching for something, perhaps. Or recording all his personal data to sell to advertisers. Or something.

The General notices a woman waving with her right hand and carrying a baby in her left. “She was most attractive, made even more so by the fact she was nursing the baby, with only a light gauzy blanket over her bare breasts.” Mmmm, there’s nothing more titillating than a woman breastfeeding.

They exchange pleasantries, and then her blanket shifts and Ozek cops a look at her tits. “Damn, he thought, he’d been out in the field way too long.”

Note the use of ellipsis in this next bit, to show things getting progressively worse: “The gauzy blanket dropped away, revealing beautifully firm sexy breasts… and a horribly mangled left shoulder, half a left arm… and a wooden stick with a rakelike end attached to the stump.” Brilliant.

These are the last lines of this 400-page waste of time:

“My job, to avenge the people of al-Amadiyah, is at an end, General, as is yours… courtesy of the Baz.”

And with that, Zilar Azzawi released the dead man’s trigger on the detonators connected to the twenty pounds of explosives hidden in the doll she carried like a baby, killing everyone within a radius of twenty feet.

That last sentence is a cracker. It’s almost Dickensian in length, but could have been written by Dilbert, it’s so officious and drab. Only Dale Brown can suck all the emotion, all the fear and all the unutterable horror out of a suicide bomb attack. The fact the last words of his novel are “a radius of twenty feet” sums the whole mess up, really.

It’s fascinating how shit some published authors can be, and still make a living. And yet, this wad of word-puke receives moderate-to-good reviews on Amazon. When I saw that, I was literally google-eyed.

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