3 out of 4 stars
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On a summer anthropology trip to the Peruvian Amazon, Professor Terry Castro and his students are ambushed by a pack of tribal hunters whose pale skin, over six-foot height, dirty yellow hair, and ice-blue eyes show a sharp contradiction to other Amazonian locals. Terry narrowly escapes this dangerous confrontation with a wound on his finger, eventually leading to a poison-induced coma.
Fortunately, while his unconscious body gets shipped back to the U.S. and confined to a hospital bed for an infinite time, his spirit does not get trapped. His astral form aimlessly wanders around and encounters Carrie, a young medium. They discover that the tribe who attacked him is “the lost tribe” or “the cloud people,” and they are holding a secret that can revolutionize the medical industry and even change the humankind altogether. Little do they know that Amaru, the tribe’s shaman, is also having an omen full of blood, screams, shouts, and murders. This is a tale of selfish greed versus ignorant naivety, and whether it ends in peace or violence is a question that you have to find out for yourself.
Cloud Warriors is a fast-paced novel jam-packed with clichés: an indigenous tribe threatened by modern people, a corporate executive whose greed knows no boundary, guilty tête-à-têtes with dizzying lust, a primitive poison cooked up from secret seeds, and a medium hearing voices from the other side. Although I have little love for clichés, in this special case, I will not complain since the author does not make them boring and predictable. He combines these elements with little twists here and there to provide a coherent and fascinating adventure. It is not exactly innovative or deep, but it is fun and captivating in its own right.
I immensely enjoy the distinct portrayal of the “cloud people,” from their history, traditions, rituals, family dynamics, and their ultimately bizarre but awe-inspiring deaths. While they occasionally act like stereotypical tribes, they are just similar to us. They have anxiety, fear, ignorance, and arrogance; they may even defy long-standing religious beliefs out of love and personal motives.
In addition, most authors write stories in a “concluding” structure, i.e. they narrate a conversation or a scene, boil it down to the most important point, and use that as a transition to the next chapter. However, Rob Jung reverses this process, especially in the first half of the novel. He first introduces the conclusion as a hook to grab the audience’s attention and moves on to explain this point later. Jung also has an efficient writing style. He does not waste words on fancy descriptions but goes straight to the essential details instead.
On the downside, despite being full of events and changes, Cloud Warriors sometimes seems “flat” due to having no heightened tension. In novels with the traditional structure, when the protagonist is on the quest to realize his desires, he will encounter difficulties or clash with the antagonist. In the final act, he himself has to be the one to resolve the problems. However, in this novel, the characters who act as the catalyst for the main conflict do not do a thing to stop it. When they try, they do the stupidest thing I can imagine and give up a mere second later when it does not work out. Yes, that is realistic, but I don’t read an adventurous novel to find a realistically idiotic protagonist. In such stories, readers deserve at least a hero.
Also, I feel conflicted about the ending. It is the slickest cop-out I have ever seen. It is violent, adrenaline-inducing, emotionally turbulent, but still a cop-out nonetheless since the protagonists are not the ones involved. With such dramatic setup and buildup, I can’t help but feel a little cheated after reading this lazy finale. On the other hand, the villain’s ending is really clever and satisfying, which I consider as a shining point. The book is not professionally edited; it has many punctuation mistakes. Besides, the cover’s design is quite irrelevant to the content of the novel. There are two unnecessarily explicit sexual scenes: one of which resembles thoughtless porn while the other, had the gender roles been reversed, would have had a colossal place in the #MeToo movement.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars, rounded up from a 2.5. Cloud Warriors may be flawed, but it is an intriguing and delightful page-turner that will capture your attention for a few hours, especially if you are a fan of exotic adventures, spiritual traveling, and evil corporate schemes. Readers looking for a deep work may find this lacking real substance.
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