I loved this book from start to finish! It begins with a prologue to set the political climate, both historic and future events, which is really helpful in placing the story which follows. The scenes set in the first couple of chapters are excellent. They give a taste of the wonderful writing throughout this book, which is succinct (no unnecessary waffle but clear enough to create pictures in the mind), the clever inferences and the unexpected events which get the reader wondering whatever could happen next (keep the twist at the end of chapter 1 in your mind as there is a connection later in the story).
I know this is a cliché but it really is one of those 'so good I can't put it down' books. At night I would think, "I'll just read a couple of chapters” and then hours later I would still be reading. I really like the way it is structured - short chapters moving from one scene to another. That keeps the energy and interest going throughout. I love a book that keeps me on my toes!
The characterisation is brilliant. The characters are not just one dimensional e.g. the different sides to Barrett, one of the main characters, is set out in the first few chapters. Some authors are good at enabling the reader to get to know one or two main characters, but they then tend to neglect or maybe not put so much effort into the other characters. That's not the case here. I feel like I got to know them all. One of my favourite things about it is how characters are brought back in, or connections between them are revealed. The characters are intertwined as the story develops.
Using characters to explain cultural differences e.g. in chapter 4 when Bates explains about the Sunnis, is some of the best narrative exposition I have read. It feels completely natural which is often not the case with exposition.
Another sign of a good book is when there are actual laugh out loud moments, all the more surprising when they are placed within a serious scene. I'm thinking here of the way the author has of throwing in a comment e.g. in chapter 40, "Being a gentleman, Malcolm's pants darkened down his left leg."
There are bits I found difficult to read (content wise as opposed to how it's written I mean). For example one thing that did enable me to stop reading one night was when I reached a certain chapter. I thought I didn't want to read further before I went to sleep with those images in my head of what I imagined was about to happen to the two Indonesians. Of course when I read on a couple of chapters the following day I realised the twist!
This book is brilliant to the very end. You know you’ve read a good book when you continue to think about the characters even after you have finished. I can't get Barrett out of my mind (and wondering what happened to Aziz)! I really hope the sequel will be written soon. I’ll be one of the first to read it.
(reviewed 67 days after purchase)