2 out of 4 stars
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Imagine traipsing through a jungle so thick that it's impossible to keep track of direction. The foliage surrounding the practically invisible trail you are following is laced with barbs that lash out at your clothes and skin. Leeches cling to the underbellies of leaves, searching for their next victim. The heat and humidity soak your skin when you aren’t even moving. Welcome to the Jungle.
While visiting Kuala Lumpur after serving in WWII, Johnny Cook (the head of M16 operations) is kidnapped by bandits and forced into the thick Malayan jungle. His only hope of rescue comes from his friends – Jamie, Jacko, and Sarah – who don’t even know where he has gone missing. Jacko and Sarah must use their keen tracking skills to find Johnny, as well as to accomplish a few other missions along the way.
Skills of the Warramunga by Greg Kater is a military thriller that follows the adventures of Johnny, Jacko, Jamie, and Sarah. It is the third book in its series but can be read as a stand-alone novel. I have not read either of the first two books in this series, and I was able to follow along just fine. The only thing lacking from not reading the prior two novels was some background information on the characters and their histories.
The characterization in this story is very well executed. Each character is brought to life through the unique dialect Kater has given them, and each dialect is perfectly suited for the character’s background. The unique dialect assigned to each character had also helped me keep track of which character was which. Sometimes it seemed like there were too many characters to differentiate, and having a distinctive voice helped keep them separate in my mind.
The beginning of this book was an attempt to subtly catch the reader up with the names of some main characters and organizations from past books. There was a lot of information thrown out at once, and the sentences seemed long and wordy. The run-on sentences could have been improved by rewording or splitting them into two separate sentences. For instance, “Following his arrival in Kuala Lumpur, Johnny borrowed a car and driver, known as a syce, from Major Algie Browning, the chief of the MSS station in Kuala Lumpur, to visit the group’s operational centre in the Cameron Highlands.” would have been better split into two different sentences. There were also a handful of other errors – consisting mostly of missing or misplaced commas or a misplaced letter in a word. These errors did not detract from the reading much, but I would suggest having the book edited once more.
For being a thriller, I was disappointed with the lack of suspense. During the tracking and rescuing scenes, I felt as if the situations that should have had me on my toes were pretty anticlimactic. I became bored with reading the same plotline over and over again. The twists in the story were redundant, and there wasn’t enough excitement to keep me from wanting to put the book down. I also felt as if Jacko and Sarah got off too easily on their missions. It seemed as if everything fell perfectly into place for them. I know they both had tremendous tracking skills, but things played out almost too easy for them.
The ending was also a bit disappointing for me. It lacked some sort of oomph or Pizzaz. Like most of the book, it felt rather dull and boring to me and just fell short of my expectations.
I also think it is worth noting that this book is written using British grammar rules. Being American and used to our writing style, it did take a bit of time getting used to the differences in punctuation. For instance, there are no periods after “Mr” or “Mrs”, and dialogue is surrounded by a single quotation mark rather than double. Before researching British grammar rules, I wrongly assumed these were errors.
All in all, I would rate Skills of the Warramunga 2 out of 4 stars. The characterization throughout the story was fantastic, but that is about the extent to which I enjoyed this read. The lack of suspense and monotony of the missions prevent me from rating this book any higher. There were almost too many characters to keep track of, and some of them did not seem necessary. Although the grammatical errors didn’t necessarily detract from the story, I would suggest having the book edited once more.
I would recommend Skills of the Warramunga to those who enjoy a mild military thriller loaded with a unique and diverse cast. Those who are looking for an intense or highly suspenseful read may want to skip this one.
Skills of the Warramunga
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