Monday, June 4, 2018


A LINE TOO FAR by BC Colman (Liberty Publishing, 2016)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Chinese commandos in a lightening raid have seized the vast, under-populated, resource-rich lands of Northern Australia. Thousands of Australian soldiers are held hostage. International realpolitik has left Australia abandoned by its supposed allies and its brittle social fabric is rapidly unwinding as the people panic. A Chinese ultimatum demands the annexation of the country’s top half in ten days, or face a full scale invasion. 

As other politicians clamour to sue for peace, Prime Minister, Gary Stone, in a desperate race against time and impossible military and political odds must commit to a risky and controversial plan to try and free the country ...

This was an interesting read on a number of levels. The debut novel from an author who has been heavily involved in antipodean business journalism for decades, it's the kind of tale that you can really enjoy if you just park your disbelief at the outset and go with the action-packed flow. It veers a little cheesy or overcooked at times, like an 80s action flick, but in the same vein if you just settle in and don't take it too seriously it's a pretty exciting and fun read.

The hook is quite an interesting idea: what would happen if China, perhaps becoming the world's major superpower, decided it needed more than what it has? The sparse, mineral-rich landscapes of nearby Australia could look very promising, and the way the world has responded to many recent conflicts around the world means the fictional Chinese government could feel like they might 'get away with it' - on a might-is-right and 'no-one else wants to start a World War' kind of footing.

This is a book with plenty of military threat, but is more of a political thriller as Australian Prime Minister Gary Stone tries to work out the best options he has (if he has any) and how to deal with both the Chinese excursion into northern Australia and the various machinations within his own government. The Chinese have managed to take over a chunk of Australia without firing a shot. But the menace is there. What price peace? How much would you risk to try to regain what you had?

It took me a little while to settle into this book, given the author's writing style, but Colman sets the hook well and keeps the pages turning. The underlying story is an interesting one, and there are some thought-provoking themes bubbling beneath the overripe action or melodrama. Overall, a good first outing that perhaps could have done with a stronger editorial hand, but is a fun, exciting read.

Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned features writer. He’s interviewed hundreds of crime writers and talked about the genre on national radio, top podcasts, and onstage at books festivals on three continents. He's been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards, the McIlvanney Prize, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can heckle him on Twitter

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