Reviewed by: BigAl
Approximate word count: 105-110,000 words
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“Mr. Parkinson was an Air Force avionics technician, a decorated veteran of the Persian Gulf War and several United Nations peacekeeping missions. He has lived overseas in numerous countries and travels extensively. He has written a newspaper column on computers and been published in several magazines.”
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“At a remote French Foreign Legion fort in the middle of the Algerian desert, Sergent Étienne Martin drinks himself numb every night. A paratrooper, talented soldier, and respected Non-Commissioned Officer, the alcohol is his way of escaping the oppressive atmosphere of the camp. Under the iron hand of Colonel Rochon, no breach of the rules is tolerated and fear rules the base. Anger, frustration, and desperation are the norm as Martin endures the last three years of his contract. Morale plummets, and desertions are frequent. Life inside the fort walls becomes an endless grind. Martin discovers millions of Euros have been taken from the fort accounts for personal gain. His duty demands he report this to his superiors. Discovering how widespread the conspiracy is, Martin must decide whether to stand against hopeless odds, or run to fight another day.”
Typically, when I sit down to write a review I have a pretty good idea how many stars I’m going to award the book, but review my notes first to make sure I’m not missing anything. This book was an exception. I was waffling, mainly because of two issues that, as it turns out, might have received more weight in my thinking than they deserved, despite liking the book overall.
The first of these was an introduction which, in my mind, drug on forever. It was an explanation of the French Foreign Legion and the historical context of when this story takes place. I guess I really am one of those people who it is best to grab from word one, because it turns out the introduction was five short paragraphs. A total of less than 300 words. I think a reasonable argument could be made for relegating the introduction to the afterword section (and good arguments to the contrary), but in any case, this as an issue was obviously way overblown in my mind.
The second issue happens to be one of my pet peeves, which I saw several times and is illustrated by this example:
“Yes, sir. Good-bye.” Click.
What purpose does the “click” serve (other than to grate on my nerves)? I’ve seen this in other books and react to it the same as I do to fingernails on a blackboard. If the speaker had slammed the phone down, threw the phone across the room, or even gently laid it in its cradle, it would subtly impart something about the character’s state of mind that might not have been communicated during the call. There are other scenarios where how, why, and when a phone caller hangs up matters. But in the vast majority of cases (like this example and I think all of them in this book) the dialogue tells us the call has ended. After “good bye,” the reader understands and isn’t going to be wondering, “did he hang up the phone yet?” Frankly, I’m surprised the author’s editor didn’t catch and purge these extraneous clicks.
I’ve now burnt way more words on two things that, in my mind, were much bigger than they should have been. However, other than cringing at the end of every phone call, I enjoyed the book. Although Origins is being advertised as the first book in Parkinson’s The Legionaire series, it was released after Mask of the Pharaoh, now considered book #2, so for those like me who read that book first, it is like a prequel. While reading Mask of the Pharaoh I thought the history of Stephen Anderson, the protagonist, would make a good story, and this is that story. It’s intense. Takes place in some interesting foreign locales which come to life for the reader and, for those new to the series, is an excellent starting point. Turns out the complex and interesting back story that was hinted at in Mask of the Pharaoh does make for a good story.
No significant issues
Rating: **** Four stars