Flight of the Blue Falcon will be released July 1, 2015 through The War Writer's Campaign. Pre-order it now from Amazon.com at this link.
I am not the sort of person who would normally read a novel about war, the army, American politics, etc. Those things do not interest me, nor have I ever cared to know much about them. However, this book is, at its heart, about none of those things—not really—but rather about people (three men, to be precise) in the midst of absurd, yet nonetheless true circumstances going on in our modern day military.
The author is a friend, and there is inevitably a loaded quality that goes along with reading a friend's work. There is a desire to view the book objectively and be fair, but be honest at the same time. This book has its issues and probably could have been shortened a good deal, but still I found myself getting lost in the experiences of the characters and the intimate individual moments of certain chapters. At times, the quality of Raab's writing took over and suddenly it was as if I was right there in the dust next to Private Rench, Staff Sergeant Halderman, and Second Lieutenant Gracie. He has a talent both for environmental detail and the occasional straight to the heart sort of honesty about the human experience that often took me by surprise.
Flight of the Blue Falcon has an overarching thread, but is structured in an episodic manner, jumping between the three main characters' perspectives, and each chapter serving almost as its own stand-alone slice of life. This works both to the book's favor and sometimes to its detriment. While some chapters are fascinating for the unbelievable events they describe or interesting because of the depth of their human emotional charge, others tend to drag. That said, there were more than a few that left me dumbfounded and authentically moved. This book has both comedy and tragedy, and often those polar qualities are interwoven with each other.
Perhaps the most intriguing thing about this novel is the account of the war experience itself. As the rear cover of the book boldly states, “WAR IS STUPID,” and as this story shows us, it most certainly is. What is most impressive about this theme is the way Raab is able to present it with a completely apolitical stance. Flight of the Blue Falcon is neither preachy nor shoving the values of one political party in our faces under the false guise of “Literature,” it is merely presenting to the reader what really goes on (from the author's firsthand experience, by the way).
There were things in this book that shocked me and made me shake my head, both in disgust and in despair. And it is these mindless, insane, don't-ask-just-do-it circumstances through which the three protagonists of the novel must trudge. They are angry, confused, floating along through the hot, dusty days, often with uncertain purpose for why they are there at all. They are soldiers, and yet even more-so, they are just regular guys, doing what any of us would do in their boots: try to keep it together for another day.
I imagine that those who have served our military may find this book especially enjoyable; cathartic, in a way, and oddly comforting. Raab calls out the B.S. of the current military system, a broken machine that countless Americans have no doubt endured. The reader comes out the other end feeling chewed-up, spit out, and disoriented right along with the main characters, unsure of what they just did or whether it had any real purpose, yet also somehow glad for having made the journey.
Flight of the Blue Falcon is set to release July 1, 2015 through The War Writer's Campaign. Pre-order it now from Amazon at this link.