Oooh … What a ride. The Valley started out so very strong.
Lieutenant Black is a paper-pusher at the relatively safe Forward Operating Base Omaha in Afghanistan. He spends his time filling out admin paperwork and being harassed by soldiers who think they’re manlier and better than him because he sits in an office while they do actual fighting. Lt. Black is about to submit his request to be discharged from the Army when he gets an unexpected assignment to complete a dangerous and seemingly ridiculous task (what appears to be a minor civil affairs inquiry) on the front lines. Within days, Lt. Black is heading to a new landscape, a beautiful and incredibly volatile area in Afghanistan that is called the Valley. And that’s when the drama begins.
Lieutenant Black’s mysterious background makes him a compelling narrator and I genuinely had no idea what was going to happen — that feeling is rare nowadays. I couldn’t put The Valley down for a huge chunk in the middle and was ripping through it faster than I’d ever expected, thinking, “This is definitely a solid four stars — at least.” This thriller had me real hooked … until the last 100 pages or so.
John Renehan leads with a breakneck pace and has some amazing dramatic build-up but, to be honest, I lost track of what was going on towards the end. The story line takes a few final unexpected turns, and it generally gets too convoluted and confusing to be an smooth reading experience. I got the general gist but I’d probably have to go back and reread huge portions to really ‘get’ it. And the writing just wasn’t beautiful or poetic or interesting enough to make me want to circle back.
I thought it was going to be more like The Knife, a book for which I did publicity and marketing, which was released at around the same time. I’m super biased, of course — but if you’re going to try war fiction, read The Knife instead. If nothing else, it’ll confuse you less, yet make you think more.
Book: The Valley
Author: John Renehan
Type: Mysterious thriller set at the front lines in war-torn Afghanistan.
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