Thursday, September 19, 2019
Book Review: 'The Preserve: A Novel' by Steve Anderson
Oregon author Steve Anderson is a noteworthy young author, a man with history in his veins and wars in his imagination. To date his fourteen published novels have dealt with WW II in the Germany setting and he knows that period and that country well (he as lived in Germany as a Fulbright Fellow and his knowledge of the atmosphere and landscape of that country are evident): he became a translator of German to English books whose focus is on crime and mystery. But Anderson has a richer and more entertaining background than simply a fine historical novelist: he has backpacked into Eastern Europe when the Berlin Wall fell, written narrative nonfiction, short stories and screenplays, worked in advertising, marketing, and journalism, and has been a waiter, a language instructor, a freelance copywriter. Full life? Enough to make his canvas for his books well prepared with personal gesso.
Steve wrote UNDER FALSE FLAGS the Prequel to this novel, in 2014 and now continues that exploration of history and war with THE PRESERVE. In the prequel we met American GI Wendell Lett paired with German sailor Holger Frings who were individually assigned the task of impersonating the enemy in order to undermine the tactics on a dangerous mission. The coming together of these two territorially disparate men but war-weary psychologically similar souls was a study in true camaraderie as can only occur in the morally suffocating confines of war. Now the setting is Hawaii, 1948 and as Steve’s fine summary states, ‘Troubled WWII hero turned deserter Wendell Lett desperately seeks a cure to his severe combat trauma (PTSD), and The Preserve seems to be his salvation. Run by Lansdale, a mysterious intelligence officer, and Lett’s ambitious wartime XO Charlie Selfer, the secretive training camp promises relief from the terrors in his mind. Together with Kanani Alana, a tough-minded Hawaiian also looking for a new start at The Preserve, Lett begins to feel hopeful. All illusions are shattered, though, when Lett discovers The Preserve’s true intentions—to rebuild him into a cold-blooded assassin. The deadly conspiracy runs deep, all the way to General Douglas MacArthur, and his refusal to cooperate is met with merciless punishment. His only hope is Kanani and her dangerous escape plan that would grant freedom from The Preserve—if he can hide while surviving the harsh wilderness of the Big Island.’
Steve has a stingingly strong way with prose, pausing at times for a bit of poetic reverie that enhances the bite of the tale. He has the gift as he has proven with his many published novels to date. This is an extraordinarily fine historic drama, based on true events, and enhanced by the author’s flair for exciting fiction. Very highly recommended.
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