4 out of 4 stars
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The first paragraph of A Police State by A.A. Freda pulls you into the mind of the main character, James Coppi. He immediately sets the tone of him against the Army and anyone who is there willingly. He has been drafted, he is not in the service willingly, and despises anyone he calls “lifers”. Rest assured he will prove this again and again throughout the book. More than once, he sets out to make a complete mockery of the Army, his fellow soldiers, and his commanding officers. Spoiler alert, he is successful more often than not.
While it would be easy to assume that this “me versus them” mentality would make James a poor soldier, it definitely does not. Despite his expressed hatred for the Army, he frequently excels as a soldier when he isn’t busy getting in his own way. In fact, he does so well that it is suggested he apply for officer training school. This goes to show how completely he fools a lot of people AND how skilled he is.
He is a troublemaker, there is no way to deny that and it is doubtful that James would describe himself any other way either. He is also extremely street smart and reads people perfectly. This gives him quite the advantage in his chosen side profession, money lending. James hails from New York and his schemes throughout the book leave questions about what he may have been doing in the city before he got drafted.
At the same time that James is lying, cheating, and swindling, there is another side of him that is only revealed when he meets Sam. She becomes involved quite quickly with the hero James and reveals a completely contradictory personality to his usual jaded self. Their relationship goes from zero to 60 in no time flat. James will do anything for Sam, even when he barely knows her, except admit he loves her which soon becomes a problem. Other than that small detail, he willingly risks everything to help this girl that he just met.
When James arrives in Vietnam, the author excels at bringing the reader along. The descriptions of the battles, the emotional turmoil, and the general extreme conditions in which the soldiers must survive are extremely well written and bring the experience of war to life. She doesn’t glamorize it and leaves out the politics which are, to this day, associated with the war there. It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with warfare in general, the author doesn’t stumble into that argument. She takes the facts, puts them in a fascinating story, and the rest is up to you as the reader.
I would rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. A.A. Freda writes excellently and I enjoyed the book thoroughly. One of my favorite parts is also one of my least favorite. James differs from many main characters in that it is almost impossible to completely hate him or love him. I found myself swinging wildly from one extreme to the other, often on the same page. He was, all at once, infuriating and endearing. I wanted to throw the book in anger seconds after I was crying at his humanity. This book is definitely worth the read.
A Police Action
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