Home : Archive : TSV 61-70 : TSV 61 : Review

Casualties of War

By Steve Emmerson

Book review by Jamas Enright

The premise of this book is a simple mad scientist plot. There isn't an incredible amount of depth here, neither in the story nor the characters. Yet Casualties of War is an easy, and pleasant, read. Maybe it's the continuing breath of fresh air after the previous books prior to The Burning, but Steve Emmerson delivers an enjoyable tale of simple country life involving such easy-going ideas as the dead coming back to life.

The character of the Doctor continues as a distinctly odd human. I'll be interested to see how he handles the problem of aging, or rather not aging. He has some close moments with Mary Minett where it looks like he might be more human than we think, and, given the TV Movie, might not have been as bad as one might think. In fact, they might have worked well. I'm pretty sure that later novels will go into this area, so I shall wait and see.

Mary Minett herself is a well-written character. Not too deep, but quite engaging. Indeed all the characters here keep the interest, which is good given the number of people that Emmerson moves through. My favourite would be Constable Albert Briggs, a policeman out of his depth. Emmerson provides some nice touches here, and I found myself caring about what happened to him.

What does happen? The story is built up slowly, with one thing revealed and explored fully, before moving onto the next thing. This doesn't make for the most dramatic tale, but it does allow time for character development, including important aspects like motive. But don't worry action fans, there are grisly moments to keep the horror alive. It's a sedate horror, admittedly, but it keeps the atmosphere nicely unsettled.

My favourite scene would be the Doctor examining the bodies. It shows how the Doctor feels he must get involved in what is happening, it shows how Mary wants to be with him, and it shows others' reactions to the Doctor. It also shows the detail Emmerson goes to with each scene, even if its overall importance is minimal.

So, for a story that's light on plot but heavy on characterisation, you'd do well to read Casualties of War. Reminds me of what was said about The Also People. We'll see if Steve Emmerson is the next Ben Aaronovitch. [4/5]

This item appeared in TSV 61 (December 2000).

Index nodes: Casualties of War