Oh, Sci-Fi, why do you tease me so? It drives me crazy to want to like something only to come up feeling indifferent to it each time. Sci-Fi and I have always had problems understanding each other. Every time I read one, I feel distant. Unfortunately, The Soldier’s Sympathy was no different.
Basic storyline is of a soldier who goes out on a—for him—routine mission only to have everything go sideways. He finds himself on the run with a little girl and in search of answers about what just threw his life into chaos.
First off, for those who enjoy Sci-Fi, I’m sure you’d find this book fun. There’s a good amount of action, it’s paced well, the writing is nice, and the scenes detailed. However ...
For me, the beginning set up was too long and detailed. Remember, I’m not one for descriptions or a lot of backstory, and the first quarter or so had a lot of both. The exposition of some of the characters’ stories had me skimming way too early on in a book, which in turn immediately distanced me from the characters, which distanced me from the book. I wish some of it had been shorter, or worked into the story more.
The PoV skips around between a multitude of characters without much warning, an omniscient PoV that I usually find distracting. Though handled well, it still threw me when we’re suddenly switching to a different character without warning. Again, this is just a personal preference.
Now, all those negatives are consistent with books that I can’t get into. It doesn’t matter how amazing the story is or how clean the writing is. Unannounced PoV switches and lengthy descriptions and backstory/info dumps will throw me off the happy train super fast. With all that said, there were definitely some redeeming qualities about this book and several of which should have any lover of Sci-Fi picking this book up.
There was a wide cast of characters and I must say that they were all fleshed out nicely with a breadth of flaws and strengths. I never felt cheated, like I didn’t have enough time with one character in order to fully understand them. They all were delivered with satisfying page time.
The story itself was entertaining, if not a tad predictable for Sci-Fi. It seems to always lead back to humans testing the boundaries of ethical technology. While I had a general notion where it was going, the true center of the broad idea was interesting and somewhat surprising.
The world was done nicely. I had no problems imagining it, which is something I usually struggle with when reading Sci-Fi. I didn’t even need to read all the descriptions to get a nice little image in my head. I will say for those who love complex worlds, this might not quench your thirst. It was simple and well thought out, but not layered in intrigue and mystery and spaceships.
There was a fair bit of action in this book. A lot of fights, guns, and a car chase. What most will love is the amount of detail put into each of these scenes. Every punch was described. For me, it was almost too detailed and I found it hard to imagine the scene, but I think most will gobble these up. Remember, I have a weak imagination. I will say that this would make one heck of an action-packed movie.
The writing was clean for me with only a few errors that I noticed—nothing beyond any other published work I’ve read, even the big names. It was accessible and fluid and easily digested. Here's a line I liked:
"But like all impossible dreams, we stow it with the rest of the bullshit and instead remain content with trivial things, like living out the day."
So overall, another Sci-Fi book that didn’t connect with me personally, but one I’m sure would satisfy any lover of Sci-Fi.