Only The Dead – book review

I’ve been busy writing my novel The General’s Legacy novel recently which is now about 75% complete for the first draft. The blog has been a been neglected so time to pay it some attention.
Last week out of the ‘Twittersphere’ this novella came to my attention.  The author M W Duncan had it on free promotion via Amazon so I thought I would grab it and may be read a little of it later to see what it was like.  That plan soon changed, here is my review and this is relevant to story structure discussions.

Enter the Liberian Jungle… (a five star review)

I was planning to read this after finishing another longer novel I’m reading. I thought I’d read just the beginning out of curiosity. A few days later having spent any spare moment I had reading it I’d finished.
There is an immersive writing style at work here which I prize in a writer when I can find it. This writing style along with plenty of interesting events happening all the time (a fast pace plot) quickly drew me in.
You feel like you are in the Liberian jungle with Mark.
It is often the case that an immersive writing style comes coupled with plodding slow plot progression. That is not the case here.
The real treat in this story is the well observed and well-developed characters. It’s all about Mark (sometimes called Mak) a private security operator (an advisor, don’t call him a mercenary) and his relationship with Kyle a journalist in the Liberian jungle during a civil war. Things go bad and they have to escape to civilisation. A simple enough concept done well and infused with human psychology. The story is told in the first person from Mark’s perspective. The way the relationship evolves between the two men as their situation becomes darker is beautifully handled with turning points in the action and their relationship coming at well-timed points in the story. It feels realistic and believable. It is sometimes quite touching without going over the top with sentimentality. Perhaps the presence of violence in the story highlights this further.
From an academic perspective, I am fairly sure I can see a story structure I recognise at work here. The right things are happening in the right phases of the story which are complete with plot points in the right places that keep up the dramatic tension. It is very well done.
M W Duncan has another “post-apocalyptic” novel out “Carrion City” set in Aberdeen Scotland I believe. I’m not normally drawn to this type of novel but after reading Only The Dead I think I need to add it to my “to be read list” for sometime next year.

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