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General Discussions => Book Reviews => Topic started by: Geoff_N on July 20, 2009, 02:31:29 PM

Title: A Human Reaction by Peter Ashley
Post by: Geoff_N on July 20, 2009, 02:31:29 PM
A Human Reaction by Peter Ashley
Reviewed by Geoff Nelder
Paperback: 228 pages
Publisher: LL-Publications (11 Jun 2009)
Language English
ISBN-10: 1905091168
ISBN-13: 978-1905091164

This novel is military science fiction at its best. Sacrifice, honour, laser scatter guns a-blazing, clever subplots and multiple counter bluff are all crafted here. What lifts this from the usual gung-ho combat, post-apocalyptic shoot-em-up is the main character, Commander John Henson. After a daring but doomed raid on an enemy base, he is captured but suffers amnesia. Is it just a ploy to confound his interrogators? If so it seems to confuse him too, and his fellow combatant lover, Salome, who rescues him. The reader is at war too, working at solving the conundrum of whether John really has amnesia but also on the real purpose of the original raid. The attacked base hid a nuclear secret, and yet so did the enemy.

Unravelling the twists and turns without losing the reader takes masterful writing. Congratulations Peter Ashley.
On one level The Human Reaction spills blood too readily even though it is only of those in military club 18-30. However, the protagonists demonstrate unease at the loss of life. John, in particular, as he recovers from his amnesia is particularly disturbed by the callousness of others and is drawn to a humbler life. There are scenes reminiscent of Joe Haldeman’s style in his Forever Peace (sequel to Forever War) a tough act to follow.

Unlike many military science fiction novels, The Human Reaction, has turbo boosters via romance. Perhaps lust is more appropriate as John is torn between his former sidekick, the stunningly attractive Salome, and gorgeous interrogator, Rachel. Golden-haired beauty versus raven, a tough decision John has to make time and again often at the point of a knife, while recovering from searing pain. The two rivals are no air-heads. Intelligent and cunning they are strong characters in several ways. I always note lines I wish I’d written and one involves John’s new amour: ‘Rachel tried to hide her frown.’ Terrific.

Speaking of pain, The Human Reaction is a master class in Show not Tell. Sometimes the characters suffer so much you have to close the book for five minutes with your stomach churning. By the time you recover and back on the page, an infernal dentist chair interrogation has you squirming again. The strength of your stomach will tell you if this is science fiction or horror.
Military scifi has been rather quiet in recent years – since the excellent anthology There Will be War edited by Pournelle and John F Carr – but it looks like aficionados will have something to sharpen their teeth on once again.
Title: Re: A Human Reaction by Peter Ashley
Post by: Pharosian on July 20, 2009, 04:26:24 PM
Sounds intriguing. I just checked it out on and there aren't any reviews yet. Maybe you should post this one there? Must say the cover art is revolting, though.
Title: Re: A Human Reaction by Peter Ashley
Post by: Geoff_N on July 21, 2009, 03:57:11 AM
Agree on that cover art, Pharosian though it is relevant in the context where the MC has his eye operated on. Nevertheless the cover should grab the reader even more than an opening hook - it is a graphic hook after all.

I posted a review  at yesterday and  I think after a few days it is goes up after approval. Then they seem to appear on the other Amazons. Maybe I should add to straight away though. I did put it up at B&N and Waterstones. Also at Compulsive Reader