Saturday, January 26, 2013

Beaten Zone / A. McLean Swanson

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Short story collection

Approximate word count: 25-30,000 words

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
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A. McLean Swanson is a veteran of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Married, with three children, Swanson is currently at work on his debut novel.


A short story collection with a common theme of war and its aftermath.


In the preface, the author puts forward a theory that “if there is to be [a] unifying theme about the Global War on Terror, it should not be about the loss of innocence and redemption,” as was the case with much literature surrounding both World Wars and, to a somewhat lesser degree, the wars in Korea and Vietnam. Instead, he says it should be “about trauma and recovery (or an attempt towards).”

These short stories broke out of the patterns I’ve seen in war stories in other ways as well. Some weave a war story with another non-war story of crisis in a way that was at first disorienting, but once I adapted helped illustrate how the effects of war linger on long after the soldiers have returned, which goes to Swanson’s theme of trauma and recovery. While Swanson’s approach isn’t without happy moments (the recovery portion of his theme), his break from previous formulas is both more realistic and more disconcerting. Worth a read, although it suffers from insufficient copyediting and proofing.


Some adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

A large number of proofing errors. The majority I spotted were extra or missing words, with some homophone and verb tense errors and the occasional typo.

Rating: *** Three stars

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