21 March 2009

19. Partisans

Partisans by Alistair MacLean

I picked up this book because it was written by the author who wrote the books that inspired the movies "The Guns of Navarone", "Force 10 From Navarone" and "Where Eagles Dare". He also wrote "Ice Station Zebra". I remember these stories. I watched the films when I was young. I recall them fondly. I decided the read this book for that reason.
It took me a while to think this story was any good at all. I read about 75 pages and kept telling my daughter that the book stunk. Then things started happening in the story that made it better. I can't put a finger on it exactly, but I not longer thought it was a crappy story.
I don't find anything special in MacLean's writing abilities. This book was not anything wonderful, but it was not poorly written either. Just average.
This is a spy/war story that takes place during World War II. Most of the action takes place in the Balkans (Yugoslavia, Bosnia, etc.) and involves Yugoslavian Partisans fighting against the Italians and Germans. It is supposed to have all kinds of twists and turns that surprise the reader. So many twists that it made it hard to follow at times, but it has the obligatory fairy tale ending.
I could not help thinking the same thing over and over while reading this book. The group of "heroes" in the book just seemed too self-assured all the time. It just didn't seem real. I kept thinking of a mixture of two famous characters. One of them being Sherlock Holmes. The other being James Bond. Why those two?
James Bond was always so cocky and self-confident. No matter what happened or what situation he was in, he was always so freaking cool about it. It was like he had some divine insight where he knew he was going to escape and everything would be just fine, so why worry about anything.
Sherlock Holmes was irritating in a different way. He always seemed to have things figured out before anything happened. He was always pointing out to others how he would take some obscure thing and turn it into an "obvious" deduction that solved a crime. He always saw things others missed and when he pointed it out the other people had to feel like they were stupid.
The characters in Partisans repeatedly got into situations where they should have been stressed or worried, but never were. They were too cocky and would say the stupidest things to the guy with a gun at their heads. When the guys were piecing together the twists it was done through conversations with others that always left the other character looking like a moron for not figuring it out themselves. The other characters must have thought these guys were super geniuses.
Something I did like about the story was that in had two main characters that were supposed to be very good looking females. So what, right? What I found interesting was that there were no romantic sections or the obligatory sex scenes that find their way into all kinds of stories. Were there opportunities? Yes. Those opportunities came and went without being utilized. I was glad because usually they have absolutely nothing to do with the story and are thrown in for no good reason at all.
I did find it irritating the way the characters were much too confident and overly convenient the way events unfolded. Does that mean the book sucked? I guess not, because I enjoyed it in the long run despite it's shortcomings.
I read this book expecting to read something like the old WWII films "The Guns of Navarone" and "Force 10 From Navarone". The first was made in 1961. It starred Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn and others. I loved that movie. It had a small band of allied soldiers facing tremendous odds against an impregnable German fortress. This book came nowhere near my memory of that film. Then again, maybe my memory is glorifying something from my youth. It really doesn't matter much anyway. :-)

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