Special Forces - Veterans (Special Forces, #3) - Aleksandr Voinov,  Marquesate,  Vashtan This is not my review of Veterans. My review of Veterans was written in my usual snarky fashion, full of similes and metaphors, conveying the very similar sentiments that I expressed in my Mercenaries reviews. I threw out my review of Veterans. You get that I feel the SF sequels are a passable three stars. Entertaining and recommendable, but not exceptional. This is what I produce after days of stimulating, healthy discussions that burn the midnight oil and make me question, “What is it about the sequels that kept me engaged while I read them, but made me feel, ‘eh,’ upon finishing them?” This is what happens when you make me think. This I blame solely on my good friends at Goodreads. So here it goes.

Believability. It all comes down to the believability in the writing for me. How does an author “make me believe”? I can’t quite pinpoint it, and my mind is too boggled right now to harp on it, but in essence it is in the sales pitch.

Since I love my metaphors so much, let’s go with a car one to assist in this explanation. Soldiers was like a BMW - a hideously orange one. I wanted a beautiful black BMW, never would have looked at an orange one, but Voinov and Marquesate insisted that I not take my eyes off the glowing sparkle of the orange. And I didn’t. I was mesmerized by it and drove it off the lot - fast.

So my lease runs out on “Soldiers” and I return to the lot. Voinov and Marquesate are waiting for me (looking dapper in John Varvatos suits - that’s how I picture them, thought you’d want to know) and they lead me over to a shiny, black car, named Mercenaries. Ah, what I wanted. There is a silver one too, they call it Veterans. BMW’s in colors I like. I can immediately tell they are lacking some sleekness, but essential lines are all their so I start to inspect them. It looks good for a while and then I recognize the logo on the trunk. KIA. Not BMW, KIA. I start looking to Voinov and Marquesate for answers, but Voinov is just staring across the lot at some unknown point and Marquesate is mumbling something I can’t understand while avoiding eye contact. Black and silver aren't BMW's and Voinov and Marquesate are still trying sell me them, but I am only going for an enjoyable test drive. I decide to keep the orange BMW and make an exit. I linger by black and silver a while just to be sure, but I’m sticking with orange.

When Voinov and Marquesate work as a team of sales pitching smoothness - I buy. When they each come at me from different directions - I don’t. Voinov and Marquesate made me engaged in a story about a homophobic alpha male who falls in love with his rapist - and I bought and I loved it. Equally incomprehensible plots continue in Mercenaries and Veterans, but Voinov and Marquesate just can’t seem to close the deal with me in regards to the believability factor in them.

Concluding that the plot in Soldiers is as hard a sell as the continued plot in it’s sequels, why did I “buy” Soldiers, but not the rest? I have suspicions. However, I am not quite bold enough to come right out and state these “suspicions,” but I am the right amount of bold to tip toe around them for a while ….

By the time I heard the call to hop on the Special Forces: Soldiers band wagon, there was a post from Voinov on the Director’s cut page stating:

“This is the vision that represents my version of the text.”

Not our. My. That was my first, “Hmmm.”

He follows it up with:

“In terms of changes, the text ends a little earlier than the original "Soldiers", so it can stand on its own.”

I thought, “What author would do that when the element of a cliff hanger would ensure more traffic to the sequels?”

I think I might get it now.

My suspicions harbor on the feeling that as I read through the series, I not only was reading the disintegration of the relationship between Dan and Vadim, but also their creators.

Now I do not personally know either of the authors. I only know them through their work and what I can discern through their interaction on Goodreads, which I am sure is a professional, public façade version of them. But what I infer from their separate websites, near complete lack of mention of each other and the quality of Soldiers verse the quality of the sequels - I am getting that their working arrangement may have become unpleasant.

When reading SF, the ICoS series was comparatively in my mind. The two series are as similar as they are contrasting. Their similarities lie in their ungodly length, total engagement of the reader, unforgettable characters and simply, epicness (epicness? That might not be a word, but I want it to be). It is where they contrast that I believe is key. Sonny Hassell and Ais’s cohesiveness as a team translated to their work. They hit their own bumpy roads with Afterimage and for a while I held my breath while Boyd went on a “Dan detour,” in his selfish escapades and temporary break from who his character had been. By keeping Boyd relatable, even when he wasn’t likeable, Hassell and Ais’s team effort kept me wanting more. Boyd recovered, Dan never did for me. Hassell and Ais share a group message board, Voinov and Marquesate don't.

Whether I am out in left field on this, I will never know. For all I know Voinov and Marquesate are best friends forever. But I do know they couldn’t keep their chemistry going in the work they produced.

For me the moment the sales pitch could no longer be believed, the five star rating was gone. Mercenaries and Veterans were entertaining, but not exceptional. It was not a five star love, but a three star working arrangement.

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