1 out of 4 stars
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Soccer is the world’s most popular sport. Brazil has won the most World Cup titles. Perhaps these were the reasons why Fernando Neves was inspired to write this short thriller, The Weakest Link: A Short Story about Conspiracy, Espionage & Sport, choosing Brazil as his milieu. (I searched the net to learn more about the author but could not pick him out from his many namesakes.)
The action revolves around the following characters: Zaur, a natural-gas tycoon from Azerbaijan and a former General of the KGB; Yulia, a KGB-trained female agent who happens to be a beauteous redhead; Elivelton, a not-so-talented player of the Brazilian soccer club Ponte Verde; and the club’s lawyer, Alirio. Zaur wants to upgrade his social status (adding to his billions is only icing on the cake, as he already has more than he could count). Yulia is working for ten million euros. Elivelton needs money to clear his escalating gambling debts. Alirio is addicted to Yulia’s charms.
The motley cast of characters makes for interesting reading, with Yulia getting the prize as the most textured of the lot. She is hired by Zaur to engineer the purchase of a soccer club (with a prestigious history) at a reasonable price. The plan is to demote the club (by foul means, if necessary) to the second division, thereby driving away its sponsors; Zaur will then come to the rescue at the right price. An added task for the redhead would be to locate sources of Brazilian sacred art which Zaur will smuggle out to sell to his fellow billionaires in Asia. Nothing works like fine art on their walls to give his rich friends the class that they presently lack.
Will Yulia deliver the goods?
The plot is cliché, and the use of a seductress to lure a man to obedience is old hat. Nevertheless, the story could have impressed me with the new learnings about soccer, a sport I am not very familiar with, and the interesting tidbits about Brazilian culture. Sadly, the book (of barely sixteen pages) never stood a chance. Only into the second paragraph, my list of grammatical errors already had ten items. By the second page, I stopped counting.
There is a lot of sexual innuendo but thankfully no explicit acts. The author attempted humor, but the grammatical errors made the jokes fall flat. For action, the story offers seduction, a killing and its cover-up, a disrupted soccer game, and heated discussions among game officials and club officers. But the scenes could not be thoroughly appreciated as the author does not use quotation marks to set off dialogue. The verbal exchanges are included in the paragraphs, thus adding to the confusion.
The book format doesn’t help, either. Each full page has close to 600 words (a standard page has 250), so the page itself looks formidable and unappealing.
The grammatical errors run the whole gamut. Proper nouns like nationalities (e.g., “mexican”), languages (e.g., “azeri”), and titles (e.g., “doctor Martim”) are not capitalized. Commas are erroneously present or absent, as if dependent on the author’s whim. The syntax is at times awkward (e.g., “at bath time we use a soap odorless she even brings because it cleans but leaves no smell”). Though Yulia’s character is bisexual (an interesting aspect of the story), I doubt whether that justifies her being called a “he” on occasion. We encounter “most purest Vanity,” “theirs true value,” “succker,” and “You'll slap in the referee's face.”
I suppose it will not come as a surprise that this book will receive 1 out of 4 stars from me. I believe the author is a non-native English speaker. This is all the more reason that a good editor should be called to make the story palatable to an English-speaking audience. Communication is key to any relationship. The relationship (also called the link) between author and reader is no exception. An author cannot afford to let that become the weakest link.
The weakest link
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