Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Let's Talk: "Red Agenda" by Cameron Poe Book Review

Title: Red Agenda
Author: Cameron Poe
Genre: Political/Spy Thriller
Page Length: 478 
Publication Date: September 21, 2017
Date Started: July 1, 2018
Date Finished: July 9, 2018
Rating: 1/5 stars

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my review*

Honestly, I thought I was going to like this book a lot more than I did. It's a genre that I've never really read before and I took the risk when I started reading it. But I ended up having a lot of problems with this book that I found that had nothing to do with the actual story and more the execution of the novel. I ended up DNF'ing this book at a little over 100 pages. As a general rule of thumb, I give every book I read until at least the 80 page mark before I DNF it, but I ended up leaving this one after reaching the 100-page mark. 

Firstly, the main thing that was a drawback for me was the information dumps and big number of POVs. The first 30-35 or so pages were just introducing each character. No action, no plot, just talking about each character. Most of the characters got 4-5 pages of their entire backstory and how they came to be in this position. It was a huge amount of information thrown at us and I, frankly, didn't remember anything about the characters from those because I was too busy trying to remember if we had met a character before. I get that this is supposed to be a complex military-esque story, but there did not need to be that many POVs, in my opinion. Plus, there should be some mystery to a character. It helps make them interesting. Divulging their entire life story in the first instance that we meet them doesn't aid in readers connecting to the characters. In fact, it does the opposite.

The next thing that I had a problem with was how the story was told. A lot of things were told and not shown. What this means is, we would get chapters where it would be "Character got on a plane and did this," and that would be the end of that action. As readers, there needs to be conflict and tension to keep us engaged. The classic "show don't tell" is advice that I give to every writer I meet as well as try to apply to my writing all the time. This book only told. Any attempt to provide a plot twist or something to WOW the readers had little to no effect.

On par with information dumps and telling, there were moments that we had important things being talked about but not explained. For instance, I didn't know what the OPEC alliance, a major part of this book apparently, had to do with the story even when the characters were talking about it. However, I did know the mechanics behind a listening device. The description of a listening device took up half a page! I get that readers are curious about how things work, but all they really needed to know about this device was that it allowed people to listen to conversations behind doors. Yet, important parts of the plot and fragile alliances were not explained at all. This led to a lot of confusion.

To go with things not being explained, we got a lot of background about people but very little information about the present time and settings. Sure, we got told that a character was based in Houston, but what does that actually tell me about the story? This, again, goes with my complaints that certain things were over-explained while important things were not explained at all.

I did not connect to any of the characters. In fact, most of them either annoyed me or I felt indifferent about. I know 100 pages isn't a lot of time to put character development into more than 5 characters, but I would have liked to see something that made these characters seem realistic. I wanted something to tell me that these weren't flat characters who exist only to service the plot. A story can have a good plot, but without interesting characters and conflict, it falls flat. The only thing that showed a character's real personality made me hate them immediately because they're the perfect example a of toxic and manipulative person.

Also, parts of this book were highly unrealistic. For starters, a man who is trailing a person of interest would likely not decide to lay his head down and take a nap when he's supposed to be surveilling, especially when he's in an area where he could be discovered. Certain airport scenes also irked me very much.

But the number 1 thing that annoyed me from the start and stayed with me throughout the entire book was the female representation. Honestly, I probably would have enjoyed this book more if the scenes that had females in them were completely cut out--that's how bad they were. Let's just say that one character who we meet got 2 half-assed pages of her complaining and then a gross, badly written beginning of a sex scene that was obviously only in their to appeal to the fetishism of lesbian sex.  I don't want to say that male authors don't know how to write intimate scenes featuring women, but this novel was beyond bad in that department.

The same female character, however, was the only character who I kinda enjoyed but still didn't care much about. It honestly pains me to say that this book would have been better without the addition of the female characters because we need more strong female representation in literature. These female characters were not very strong and were obviously only put in to try and add representation. I just...I hated that part of the book so much. I cannot get past the fact that these female characters were only there to further the main male characters' stories.

Overall, I had a lot of problems with this book. Going into it, I was actually really excited to read it and branch beyond my general reading tastes. However, it sorely disappointed. To me, this book felt like a first draft that needed massive polishing and beta readers galore. The idea itself was interesting, but it was not well executed. For me, it could just be because it is so out of the genres of what I usually read that I was "genre-shocked," so to speak. Still, a lot of my problems had to deal with the actual execution of the book and not the plot, which was interesting and could have been amazing had it been written better. I highly doubt that I will return to this book again and I can only hope that other readers enjoy it more than I did.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more reviews and possibly a giveaway!

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