The Reluctant Colonel by Michael J. Merry

The 618-page ARC of The Reluctant Colonel by Michael J. Merry AndiLit sent to me.

Set in the fictional Central American country of Maraguay, The Reluctant Colonel relates the story of a 1964 coup, its leaders and their ensuing efforts of setting up a new government. I did feel hampered by my lack of historical knowledge of the time period, though; perhaps the book would be helped by a brief overview of the historical setting, from real life. I felt Merry might have had a political message, but I wasn’t educated enough about the time he wrote about to recognize it.

Some of the points I make here certainly reflect on the self-publishing platform, BookSurge, rather than on the author.

I like how much space the interior pages have, and how large the text is, but actually the text might be a bit too big. Six hundred-plus pages is enough to be daunting to some readers. Making the font slightly smaller, along with a couple other changes (see below), would not only make the book less daunting, it would also decrease production cost of the physical product.

By the third chapter I wondered if this — with all its brief chapters and snippets from different periods of time — would be a better short story collection, with the same characters recurring. It seems there are just too many interruptions, especially early on. (This solution didn’t plausible later.) I also felt disoriented, because of the numerous flashbacks to various points in time, never knowing what year it was. Perhaps BookSurge didn’t allow Merry to add these notations?

I did get into the story once I was about 100 pages into The Reluctant Colonel. The story, as it directly relates to the coup and its aftermath, is quite nice.

I dislike the crass language and views of women in the book. It’s degrading, and not in the least funny. As I try to see this from the writer’s perspective, I think these interludes were probably intended as comedic breaks from the intense action? I would much prefer, though, that the action continue straight through, without these awful chapters.

It really needs to be edited. Words can be removed, which shortens the work. Rewording in places could eliminate the stilted feeling on some pages. This is so important. There are also problems with capitalization (mostly words being capitalized when they shouldn’t be), punctuation, and with how Spanish words are thrown in and handled.

These problems really kept me from enjoying the book as much as I could have. Perhaps some of these issues were addressed before the final copy was produced. However, I’m somewhat doubtful that they were, since I ignored for this review the corrections that were found and submitted to BookSurge (presumably by the author?), according to a printed sheet tucked inside the pages. Regardless, I hope they were fixed.

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5 responses to “The Reluctant Colonel by Michael J. Merry

  1. It almost sounds like a book I would enjoy except for the 600+ pages and that it doesn’t sounds like it was all that gripping.

    Thanks for the review.

    What is ARC??

  2. *Grin* It was somewhat gripping. It went quickly.

    Advance Review Copy. The book has been published now, though.

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  5. Unfortunately, in Latin America in the 50’s and 60’s (and indeed, to some extent, even today) a woman’s role is very different than in the United States and Europe. I am not saying I agree with that but that’s the way it is/was and to change it would be to alter the way things were/are.

    The flashbacks were meant to separate chapters and povide a comic relief. These were not accidents, I wrote them in on purpose.

    As for having a political message, well back in period of time that the story took place, many Americans did not think much of Latins. Trampling heavy footed over neighbours induced a contempt which translated into political opposition to the US methods and consequently to relationships. My story merely showed how I personally, believe that taking a different approach to relations with the US can result in better results for everyone.

    M J merry

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