Book Review: The Dogs Of War by Frederick Forsyth

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The Dogs Of War by Frederick Forsyth is another of my Father’s reading recommendation, and with catalytic converters, African mercenaries and coup d’état it’s an interesting mix of plot points brought together to form a novel. And it is also my first foray into the world of Frederick Forsyth, an author whose name is famous in my mind but whose works I have no knowledge of.

I really found the novel hard going and static to read. The pages seeming to take longer than usual to turn because there just really isn’t a natural narrative flow to it. The pace seems very linear and one dimensional. It presents the story in a way that works as time passes in the book so isn’t hard to understand, but the language is stuffy and simplistic and lacking any richness. And you therefore, just end up with a book that feels like it’s becoming more and more dense the longer it goes on.

Author - The Dogs Of War by Frederick Forsyth

This is highlighted by the fact that the book is all focused towards it’s big regime changing finale and so, spends probably two-thirds of its pages setting this into motion, which is fine, and in a way interesting. The ideas about how the layers and timings of the plan play out to form the bigger picture, how trust, mistrust and simple luck all add together to ultimately lead to either the success or failure of the project work well together to keep you interested on a basic level and the characters have definable personalities that mean you form individual opinions about them and clear images in your head of who they are and how they look. Yet, Forsyth just trudges through it all with a language that lacks any emotion or passion and a level of confused detail that becomes almost impossible to follow.

As the spiders web becomes ever more and more complicated as Character A uses Pseudonym B to talk to Mister C about Person D (who you thought was actually character A anyway) things start to demand two or three reads to make sense of it all in your mind. And then money is thrown into the equation just to confuse you even more. Budgets and expenses, brides and handouts lavished around without a calculator or running total in sight, and in the end I just gave up trying to work out how much money was in whose bank account, or being spent on what in comparison to the starting budget. I just accepted that lots of money was being handed out and let the actual amounts become unimportant background noise.

Calculator - The Dogs Of War by Frederick Forsyth

Because I started glossing out parts of the book that form almost its entire backbone it meant as well that the novel ends up feeling like it’s lacking anything to really draw you in. There is a glutinous monotony to it that that felt like a ream of paper starched into seriousness rather than an engaging thriller pumping your blood. It’s not a book that you will get truly caught up into because it doesn’t get under your skin. Everything feels like it has a purpose and it causes the story to lack the flexibility to get your heart racing enough to make you want to spend those few extra minutes, that you don’t really have, reading those few extra pages.

I also dislike the abruptness I found at the ending of the story. Without investigation, I would believe that Frederick Forsyth has no military background, that he is a writer who loves his genre, but loves the black market games and shadow conspiracies of the set up while taking no interest when ultimately, the bullets start to fly. The book as I said, spends so long treading water in preparation for the fight that is obviously coming, only to then rush through it at such a speed that it lacks any depth or plausibility. I understand that it’s meant to be quick as time runs in the book, but that doesn’t mean it has to be written as concisely, or nondescriptly, or awkwardly as it is. It finishes the story in a way that almost feels like you’re being treated. Or even treated like a fool.

African Soldier - The Dogs Of War by Frederick Forsyth

I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’ve hated, disliked, or detested The Dogs Of War by Frederick Forsyth, it’s simply a case that I haven’t enjoyed it. It never moved me. I never really got into its world or befriended it’s characters. It was just a tale that is forgetful, words arranged to tell you a story and nothing more. A leads to B which eventually becomes C and at no point does it pretend to twist into D. And I think the best way to sum up my feelings is to liken it to being shown holiday snaps: they’re OK to look at, but unless you were there, they are always just too flat, too lifeless and too removed to really provide any fulfilling enjoyment. This is Forsyth’s African holiday snaps.

Posted on by 5WC in Book First Edition

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