A NovelBook - 2010
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Since winning a major award for his photojournalism in the early 80s, Zane’s life has come unhinged. Years working in war zones have left him with an inability to engage reality and a tendency to flashbacks that manifest much like PTSD. Unwilling to return to the arena where he produced his best work, and unable to socially navigate the petty trivialities of urban and suburban life, Zane is reduced to taking photos for a small-time porn production company in Toronto. He meets a performer called Melissa, and the two hatch a plan designed to save her life and his career.
Combat Camera’s subject matter will tempt some to steer around it. For readers of literary fiction who don’t mind some grit, that would be a mistake. Somerset’s language is pitch-perfect to the subject matter: the narrator has flashes of extreme wit and brilliance edged with self-deprecating sarcasm. Zane and Melissa are sublimely aware of how ridiculous they are. Even the streak of heroism introduced into the plot seems to mock itself as soon anything gets too serious or heartfelt. For all the mockery, though, the characters and narrator are all stumbling toward something real, and this effort keeps Combat Camera from becoming as base as its plot elements. Somerset uses sparse language packed with meaning to move the plot quickly. The book wraps up in just over 250 pages, leaving the reader feeling as raw as the characters left behind. Not surprisingly, readers’ discretion is advised. By turns wickedly funny, frustrating, and stunning, Combat Camera is a lean, mean read that will surprise you and leave you wanting more.
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