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BOOK REVIEW: OVERWATCH by Matthew Betley

| 5 June 2017 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: OVERWATCH by Matthew Betley
Simon & Schuster Australia – thriller, paperback, rrp$29.99
June 2017
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
7 ½ /10

A former Marine himself, Matthew Betley has written a debut novel with the potential to create great conflict in thinking readers.

On the one hand, this is a legitimately exciting book, well plotted and – for the most part – well written. Betley’s professional experiences give the story a gritty, dangerous authenticity that help propel the fast paced story forwards.

Overwatch introduces special forces veteran and alcoholic Logan West, a man juggling a disintegrating marriage and his illness, along with the burden of the horrors of what he saw on duty.

West’s marriage may be fading, but when his wife and beloved dog are attacked by unknown assailants in search of an Iraqi artefact, he immediately mans up and goes on the warpath for personal revenge, protecting the world from terrorism by an unlikely source, along the way.

Intriguing as West is, the other side of the coin to Betley’s writing is a sheer, bloody-minded jingoism that goes above and beyond the normally expected jarhead ‘ooh rah’ mentality.

For starters, there is a scary excitement in describing the bloodier scenes which leads him to get sloppy in his writing. There’s also no gung-ho charm in Betley’s obsession with weaponry, either. He insists on rattling off intimate details and model numbers of every gun and knife over and over, like he’s writing weapon porn.

Worst of all, there’s a casual racism shown by practically every main character. We’d again expect gung-ho parochialism and a distrust of enemy forces in any war situation, but Betley goes so far as to have his leads actively dislike all Iraquis, belittling civilian efforts with offhand statements such as reacting to a poorly painted insurgent building with, “Iraqui craftmanship at its finest.”

It’s unnecessary: hate the bad guys, not the entire nation or religion.

We’re well aware that many potential readers will find the above criticisms as selling points, rather than a detriment – which seems a bit of a sad indictment of the world today, but it is what it is.

Betley is a fine writer, despite these concerns, and it would be great to see him turn his talents to a more positive, or at least more open minded, story.

Shane

Category: Book Reviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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