Saturday, August 18, 2018

Book Review: Burning Sky by Weston Ochse + Update with a interview

Burning Sky by Weston Ochse

Paperback, 420 pages

Expected publication: September 25th 2018 by Solaris

There is a long and storied tradition of military science fiction. One author Weston Ochse knows well. His last trilogy of novels were firmly in the vein of that sub-genre best known for classics like Forever War and Starship Troopers. As for military horror there are random novels here and there but the undisputed master of this sub-genre is Weston without a doubt. Starting with the Seal Team 666 trilogy that were like a special forces take on the X-files. This sub-genre was inevitable and in less capable hands it could have been very hard to handle.

Weston has experience, he has served in Afghanistan and over 55 countries that brings us to Burning Sky. There is one human being with that much military experience who also teaches English and creative writing. Who else could write such a heavy novel set is Afghanistan that combines experience, horror, fantasy and has a thoughtful message. On top of that Burning Sky is well written and explores the very nature of violence and war that plagues our species. Yeah that sounds heavy because it is.

This is also a fun novel at times, with entertaining action, monsters, ancient gods and Philip K Dick worthy time shifts and alternate realities that will remind readers in all the right ways of Jacob's Ladder. There is a What the hell is real twist that is so well executed I was shocked when Weston told me in a e-mail that he has not read much PKD. That is a round about way to say this is a mind expanding cross genre read that I can't recommend enough.

Much like his last Grunt trilogy Burning Sky is very much about PTSD, but Burning Sky takes that theme and goes beyond. This novel is about what drives war. It explores the deep trauma not just of the warriors but society. The book points to key moments covered by the news in the last few conflicts that lead to Trauma that we felt collectively. The theme is expressed so beautifully in some of this novel's most horrific moments. As a writer, reader and fan of Weston I honestly pumped my fist in the air at one of these moments.

I enjoyed the Seal Team books, I like Grunt Life and respected the heck out of it. Burning Sky is masterpiece that I am more impressed by the longer I think about it. If you like your horror, political and thoughtful I would say you should pre-order this novel. It will be on my best of the year list for sure.

Couple of notes on this review:

1) We have a already recorded a long form audio interview with Weston Ochse for the Dickheads podcast that will be posting in a few weeks. The first half is spoiler free. The second half is a serious deep dive into the craft of the novel. I recommend reading the book and listening to the whole thing. Weston has alot to teach us.UPDATED WITH THE INTERVIEW:

2)I have to say off the bat that I was torn. When Weston Ochse offered me a chance to read his as yet unreleased new novel I was excited but he didn't have physical books yet. I am not much of an e-reader and trying to upload this PDF to my kindle taught me that it didn't work anymore. Thus this was my first experience reading an entire novel on my phone. That was not easy for me. So my process for tagging pages and taking notes was a little off.

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