The Prologue had my attention. Christmas 1990 forward, not so much. With Mercenaries came the muddy waters that I had feared for the authors (that they miraculously evaded during Soldiers).
As Soldiers was a unique literary work, masterful in its artful creation / progression of the power struggle between Dan and Vadim, Mercenaries read like a trite, daytime soap-opera created for bored housewives looking for a melodramatic way to pass the day. Not that it was a badly written soap-opera, I certainly passed the day entertained by the drivel, but Mercenaries in no way did any honor to Soldiers. As Dan and Vadim found their personalities had completely diverged from who they were in Soldiers so did the authors abilities to retain any semblance of what had made Soldiers such a successful piece. The give and take power struggle that Voinov is so brilliant at creating turned into a power fizzle. And though I was entertained, I found myself angry that the authors had let such a great start progress down the road of the absurd. The characters were no longer clever creations and neither was the plot. The key to a great power struggle is two worthy opponents. Though I am guessing most fans won’t agree with this review, they would probably agree with the fact that as Mercenaries continued, Dan lost not only respect, but also appeal. He became the weak link (sneaky, dishonest, slutty) - no longer a hero, no longer an equal. To be honest I didn’t particularly hold a torch for either of the MC’s in this sequel to Soldier. (But I still rooted for Vadim, Dan I could have kicked to the curb).
In Soldiers, I willingly swallowed that a homophobic alpha male fell in love with his rapist and became comfortable with coming out of the closet to his employer after years of a hidden homosexual affair with the enemy. That’s how good the writing was in Soldiers. What I am choking on in Mercenaries is that after being abandoned by his recently released, professionally tortured lover, said formerly homophobic alpha male is now a drama queen on a military base and openly perpetuating the stereotype of a promiscuous gay male. Are you kidding me with this? Dan, from January 1991 on, morphed into this juvenile ass inclined to bravado and bad decision making - this, the same man who was clever enough to last ten years alone in the mountains of Afghanistan with the Mujahideen? Meanwhile, cracked Vadim turned into suicide alluding, mopey, emo-kid? I was sorry to hear about how sorry Vadim felt ….. about Vadim being sorry. Maybe they could just resolve things by passing each other a note during study hall.
And since I am in a ranting mood - Katya, WTF? Where did that creepy plot twist come from, some 80’s soap opera? I think that might have been ripped right from an episode of Dynasty.
In truth I am sure I will continue to read Dan and Vadim’s saga, after all I am invested, it is free and now that Mercenaries has sufficiently lowered the bar on my expectations, as with any soap opera, it is entertaining.
Most enjoyable moment of this read:
“Vadim smiled, again. He couldn’t imagine Dan with a boy. Let alone one in female dress. How weird was that? Something one wanted dressed up as something one didn’t want.”
I laughed out loud upon reading that and giggle thinking about it time to time. What is that amusingly, ironic statement doing in this flop of a sequel. It is earning it a three star rating, that’s what.
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