Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer – a book review
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – David Shafer – (actual words on parchment) 7/10 – I had read some endorsements of this book on facebook and asked for/received the book for my birthday back in August. It sat on my nightstand for 5 months until I finally cracked it and read it in less than 2 weeks.
To summarize, it’s a kind of conspiracy theory adventure novel with a love story thread woven in. It’s skillfully done and quite original in many respects. There were also some painfully convenient “writer-ly” turns in it, which is why I’m not giving it an 8. Shafer is clearly a talented writer and the conspiracy is original (if hiding in plain sight); a private corporation is sucking up all world knowledge in an attempt to stratify humanity and eventually dispose of the lower 95%. If that doesn’t ring true, then I don’t know what’s wrong with you, because it’s already happening. I thought using something that already exists as the obstacle for the heroes was pretty cool. The characters felt true and believable. Two of the protagonists are variations on a theme and almost interchangeable, but I’m not sure as that’s a complaint; they were close friends as young men, so I suppose that happens in life as well as literature.
Shafer does a nice job with his female protagonist’s inner voice as well. I don’t have much experience writing from a woman’s perspective, so I imagine that to be a challenge. Shafer does a nice job with it. It rang true for me, anyway. I also need to give the author props on the ending. The ending felt right, which I also imagine being a real challenge in a “grand” story like this one. I was kind of expecting a huge gesture and when that didn’t come it made me consider what was important – and that was that the character made a decision to make the grand gesture – and somehow that was enough. That took confidence in my eyes and was just as satisfying, perhaps even more so.
This book was an enjoyable read. It may not stick with me for all time, but it was certainly a better effort than most. Congratulations on a successful debut novel Mr. Shafer.
As a totally unnecessary aside, the author went to Harvard. I hate Harvard. I’m biased against people that went there. It’s kind of always shadowed me, personally. I know probably more than my fair share of alums, so I don’t know why it bothers me when I see someone attended that school, but it does. When I lived in Boston, I hung out with Harvard kids on a regular basis and I guess I hated their healthy egos. That continues into adulthood and isn’t exclusive to people have gone to Harvard. To this day, I know people that went there that aren’t particularly accomplished, not unaccomplished, just not stand-out crazy successful – but the fact that they have healthy levels of self-esteem bugs me. “Oh, you are okay with the fact that you are still kind of a loser because you went to HARVARD,” is what I’m thinking in the back of my mind. It’s kind of a “get out of jail free” card. Oh you failed at life? Well maybe not entirely – you did manage to get into and graduate Harvard. Things can’t be all that bad.
Then again, I can see that argument being used against one’s self if you did end up not doing much after graduating. “People expected great things from me – after all I went to Harvard – but look at my life. I haven’t accomplished shit.” So there you go, that’s how my inner monolog would go if I had attended Harvard and didn’t’ do anything notable in adulthood. Thank god that’s not my real issue. That would really suck.
I know it’s not the people who went to Harvard’s fault. I know this is a bitter pity party of one going on here. Heck if I paid that outrageous tuition and was able to get into the best school in the country, I’d probably make sure everyone and their brother knew about it too. Still. eff-you Harvard. And eff-you fair-weather-semi-friend that still uses his Harvard alumni email 20 years after the fact.
Despite all that Harvard mania, your book is still pretty good, David Shafer. Nice work. I’d be proud of it if I were you.