In 1995, Marek Hussar was in war-torn Sierra Leone working against the Revolutionary United Front, a rebel group noted for their atrocities. When he meets minister Koma, he gets distracted by events happening in the bush that may have consequences he couldn’t have imagined. And they will come back to him after he is long gone from Sierra Leone. Years later, he has another mysterious job involving two men. Argos Argyros, who’s been hired as an actor thinking he is pursuing a lifelong dream, and Freddie Oslo, who works for a large bank that engages in transactions he doesn’t always understand. As the story unfolds, the characters come together in unforeseen and unexpected ways.
Terrain is a unique novel with a rhythm all its own. Mr. Caplinger is very observant and has an extraordinary ability to channel his descriptions into remarkable literary passages, which make this work feel both new and different. And while I liked the international setting and thought he did an excellent job of making me believe that I was actually in the specific place and time, I’m torn about how I feel about this story overall. The downside of all the intense descriptions to me was the feeling that the story moved at a rather slow pace. For about half the book, I wondered where the story was headed, and at times it felt disjointed, especially when Argos and Freddie popped up into the story without the reader knowing how they fit into the overall tale. This was something I didn’t like. However, I did feel that it got better as it moved along and events started coming together at the end.
The end of the story was quite moving and emotional as the reader could see a little more about what made the mysterious Hussar tick. In general, I thought this story showed the utter uselessness of war, especially in Sierra Leone, where men used and abused children to do their bidding. Kamadugu seemed to say it best in the beginning when he told Hussar that the children were not children but ghosts. As to Argos and Freddie, well, that bit of the story was more entertaining than thought-provoking to me and showed that Hussar could be tender with children but devoid of feeling for others. And it may sound strange, but even though I’m still not sure how I feel about this style of writing and storytelling, I’m beginning to think it will stick with me longer than I had anticipated when I started reading it.
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