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Nothing says "I Love You, Dear" like screaming lower back pain!

Sometimes Wrong but rarely in doubt!

25 March 2009

The Last Centurion

John Ringo
ISBN 1-4165-5553-6
Rating: Buy, Hardcover, New

I've been trying to open most of my reviews of John Ringo's books with the statement that I like his books. It's intended to be a bit of a disclaimer since I may be a bit positively biased towards his books overlooking flaws that I should be mentioning.

I also should mention that I don't always have a good opinion of first person narrative. My complaints about first person narrative are legion perhaps, but let's focus on the positive. There are a few books written employing first person narrative that I've enjoyed. Those few books include the Moon is a Harsh Mistress which, as I mentioned in a prior review, uses dialect in the first person narrative, irritating dialect. Strangely it's the dialect that makes the narrative style more effective because the book comes across as someone telling his own story in his own words rather that some author stuffing prose in the narrator's mouth. Since this blog is an informal medium of communication I tend to write much the same way I speak, I use contractions, vernacular, idiom, colloquialism which is what Heinlein does in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

The Last Centurion is a first person narrative.

Ringo referred to The Last Centurion as be written blog style. Really I think he just tore a page out of Heinlein's book and used the aforementioned vernacular, idiom and colloquialism to make the book seem like someone telling their own story. Blog style or not Ringo uses the first person narrative very effectively and managed to write an interesting standalone book.

There might be some spoilers below:

The Last Centurion is the story of a farmer's son that joins the US Army. The events in the book take place from 2018 to 2021. The format is that a Bandit Six (our main character) has decided to blog on the events that gave him his notoriety. The first 200 pages could be barely veiled tirade against the theory of anthropogenic global warming. Or the first 200 pages could the introductory object lesson in uncritically accepting the 'facts' the mainstream media peddles to western society. Given that most of the book engages in scathing attacks on the honesty and integrity of western mainstream media I feel that the first 200 pages is perhaps serving double duty.

The book goes on to introduce a viral plague with high mortality leading into a year with no summer. Against this backdrop The Last Centurion plays.

Overall I enjoyed the book. The scaremongering about the cold and plague I can accept in fiction where I can't in journalism. I gave Make Room! Make Room! a scathing review because although similar in scaremongering it didn't have a good story playing on that background but rather was all about the background or setting. To an extent The Last Centurion falls in the same trap but to a far lesser degree. The book isn't just a condemnation of western media but is an engaging and interesting story of one man being in the right place at the right time.

Overall I think this is one of Ringo's better books and I hope that his upcoming books make the same grade.

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