Square felt plugged into a primeval current that made him want to curl his upper lip from his teeth, show off his canines, yet his face remained locked in a mild frown. His eyes were wide and muted, shadowed by the lip of his helmet. He felt very tired, the pistol heavy.
It’s more difficult to review books in the Literary Fiction genre than it is to review a Mystery, Fantasy, or a SciFi Epic. The intent, the structure, the unwinding of the tale – none of it follows a path that allows a reviewer to compare it against well-traveled formulas. The Life of Ling Ling by Jerad W. Alexander is such a book. I would have liked to say brilliant things about the book that would drive people to read it. Instead, in my original runs at the review, I kept wandering far off the trail due to the many things the novel forced me think about. In the end, a short burst of praise is all that I can provide.
Sergeant Square is a warrior who has given himself over entirely to war. When his wife (his connection to a world not marked by dust, tedium, and sudden violence) stops responding to his calls, he purchases a blow-up doll, christens her “Ling Ling”, and disconnects himself from the essential emotions that make him human but are unnecessary and even undesirable in war. Like many soldiers before him, he’s at risk of losing his humanity to basic animal instincts.
The Life of Ling Ling is a quietly powerful book. It’s visually written: you can watch along as the story plays out. It is also often darkly but subtly humorous. World War II had Kilroy, but the Iraq War of this novel births a very different graffiti. I haven’t a single criticism of its literary worth, which is unusual for me. It’s an intense, well written, and affecting story. While I think it must be difficult to write about a war that is still so close to us without becoming either politic or patriotic, Mr. Alexander manages to stay true to his intimate story. In the end, with Square’s unit, we stand and hold our breath to discover if the human being has become just another abandoned, rabid, desert dog.
Ultimately, this short novel may leave you feeling drained and mildly dysphoric. The book is gritty, grim, unrelenting, and completely honest. And that is *exactly* why you should read it.
At the time of this review, The Life of Ling Long is available for only 99 cents. If you enjoy novels written with a high level of literary skill, can accept depictions of graphic violence and crude language because they are central to the reality of the story, and aren’t looking for the latest “feel good” novel of the year, that 99 cents will be a very good investment. You can step into a soldier’s life by purchasing the novella at Amazon.com.