Official Review: Opium and the Red Rose by Michael Rogers

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ButterscotchCherrie
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Official Review: Opium and the Red Rose by Michael Rogers

Post by ButterscotchCherrie » 15 Sep 2019, 03:05

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Opium and the Red Rose" by Michael Rogers.]
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2 out of 4 stars
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In a village of bamboo huts, guns mounted on tripods are pointing at the sky. A helicopter appears and drops fireballs. One of these sucks out the air below the helicopter, which crashes down causing death and destruction. This is not Vietnam in the 1960s, though - it's Hollywood in 1982. Vietnam veteran Danny Summers, who is the hero of Opium and the Red Rose by Michael Rogers, is filming the scene when a man approaches him with an invitation to meet with a Senator called Mainland.

Especially as the accident in Hollywood triggers Danny's post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the Vietnam combat, he is intrigued by the Senator's proposal. He learns that his former driver is now General Khun Sa and a drug lord in the Golden Triangle formed by the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam. He has been selected to leverage this connection in a deal with the US Government concerning Khun Sa's opium crop. So that's the "opium" part of the title. To find out the significance of the "Red Rose", you will have to read the book.

I loved the premise of this novel. It is classed as historical fiction but also works as a thriller. The opening set the tone for a tale of double-dealing where things are often not what they seem. I was fascinated by the idea of a character serving in the Vietnam war as a young man and then in the "War on Drugs" as a mature one. I was interested to see how he would deal with his PTSD. At times, the story reads like travel writing. I enjoyed the detailed description of the Italianate railway station in Bangkok as well as a scene in a downpour where riverside steps become a waterfall. The scenes are often film-like, which reflects the author's background.

That strength was also a liability at times. Thoughts and feelings that had already been shown were repeated unnecessarily. There were also some pacing problems. An example of this is an incident where a character goes missing. In a sinister twist, the home from which she's vanished is left immaculate, although she's a poor housekeeper. When the situation is resolved shortly afterwards, something that could have been thrilling feels more like a damp squib than a fireball. Similar patterns occur throughout.

An editor might be able to address these issues and would probably suggest some cuts. This is because parts seemed overly long and characters and scenes unnecessary. Another area requiring an editor's attention is the grammar and spelling as there are multiple errors. My rating is 2 out of 4 stars; I took away a star for the errors and another partly because the pacing and tension need improvement.

Another area for improvement is the portrayal of women. I believe the author was aiming to create a strong female character in Susan Vickers, Senator Mainland's striking secretary who leads Danny's mission. The third-person narration does not delve into her point of view, however, and her role seemed decorative for most of the story. The Asian women, meanwhile, were portrayed overwhelmingly in terms of looks and sexuality. It was exciting when members of the matriarchal Ahka tribe brought their combat skills to the mission, but then another stereotype of Asians as warriors was in play. Their knife-throwing skills also seemed less important than their sex appeal to American males.

Nonetheless, the story became more enjoyable after those characters came into it. I'd recommend this book to those who favour thrillers, action scenes and stories about the Vietnam War. Sensitive readers are warned that this book contains some violence and gore. It's more suited to a mature audience. There are frequent sex scenes that become increasingly graphic as the story goes on, including some distasteful non-consensual sex. If you can get past this and the slow beginning, it's worth reading for the denouement and climax, which are cleverly done. Overall, this book worked well on some levels but not on others.

******
Opium and the Red Rose
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Post by rumik » 19 Sep 2019, 13:39

I love that there are warrior women in the story but I don't want to read about how sexy they are, I want to read about how badass and strong they are. Thanks for the detailed review though!

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ButterscotchCherrie
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Post by ButterscotchCherrie » 19 Sep 2019, 14:15

rumik wrote:
19 Sep 2019, 13:39
I love that there are warrior women in the story but I don't want to read about how sexy they are, I want to read about how badass and strong they are. Thanks for the detailed review though!
Ita! Many thanks for your comment.

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Post by corinaelena » 19 Sep 2019, 22:20

This seems very intriguing. I usually applaud authors for talling about mental illnesses in their books. However, I have seen multiple plots where the protagonist has PTSD from Vietnam, which makes me wonder if they aren't just using it as a cheap and easy way to show the character's vulnerabilities.
Great review!

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Post by kdstrack » 22 Sep 2019, 22:11

Your correlation of the two wars the main character fought in was fascinating. I loved the way you analyzed the characters and the plot. Great review!

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Post by unamilagra » 23 Sep 2019, 19:34

I also think the premise of this book sounds fantastic, so I can understand why you chose it. It's too bad the writing style couldn't quite keep up. Thanks for an honest review.

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Post by Nizar Ali Shah » 24 Sep 2019, 10:58

"Opium and the Red Rose " by Michael Rogers.This is not only a historical fiction but also works as a thriller.The idea of a character serving in the Vietnamese war as a young man and then spent on the war on drugs.It is a useful book for those who like thriller actions oriented scenes, but it is not good for sensitive readers.The author has heavily portrayed the portrayal of women and the Asian women were portrayed in terms of looks and sexuality.

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Post by Meg98 » 28 Sep 2019, 21:55

This sounds like an interesting read, and I like the premise as well. I think I will have to read this one! Thanks for this great review. Cheers:)
Oh love, never be afraid to fly :wink2:

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Post by Miriam Molina » 30 Sep 2019, 18:46

Now that 🌹 has me curious. Asian women warriors are good, too. The sex part is real, but I wouldn't need it emphasized. Another excellent review, Alice!

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Post by evraealtana » 14 Oct 2019, 13:26

Oof. The action sounds exciting, but poor female characterization is a major drawback in my opinion. I think I will skip this one. Thank you for a detailed and well-written review.

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