Reading Special Forces/Soldiers
by Aleksandr Voinov almost feels like a rite of passage. Let’s just say its reputation precedes it – it is a must read in the m/m romance genre, it is a long, gut and heart-wrenching journey that requires an investment of time and courage. But oh, is the journey worth it. With great skill this author takes us from an initial brutal act between our two protagonists, Dan and Vadim, that sets them up against each other in a struggle for vengeance and dominance; and then brings them (amazingly) together in a very unique courtship of discovery and acceptance of self. This is an epic and yes, very romantic story of redemption.
Centered in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation of that country between 1980 and 1990, Dan and Vadim are working on opposing sides, military enemies. Dan, a Brit working as an undercover operative for the rebel side, and Vadim, an officer in the invading Soviet army, find their paths continually crossing and the Afghani countryside is their testing-ground. They are soldiers with a capital ‘S’-- a special breed of ops exquisitely trained to wreak havoc wherever it is needed… including in their personal lives. This is a joy-ride of testosterone-infused machismo posturing, of two ‘cock-o-the-walk’ protagonists so fueled by the need for control and power that they continually butt up against each other in a dangerous game of king of the mountain. You are hooked in from the start, wondering what new ways these two will come up with to gain the upper hand.
My favorite reads are always those that have a strong sense of place and time; that are evocative – you sense you can step off the page and into the literary landscape. Voinov gives us the heat, the cold, the dust and sweat of Afghanistan. The country and its cruel mountains, a veritable playground for the Special Forces, not only test and teach but seduce as well. These two men who have no real country, no place of acceptance of who
they are, ultimately find a home that takes them as they are.
There are some small niggles… some editing issues in the ‘director’s cut’ version and at times the POV switches confuse (though in general I did marvel at how Voinov was able to keep the head hopping mostly fluid).
Quibbles aside, this is an exceptional, memorable piece of gay romance literature that pushes the boundaries of that genre. Highly recommended, but be forewarned – you will want to proceed directly to the second book… if you dare :)