Kimo’s War is a military fiction novel that attempts to describe LT Kimo (Key-mo) Kitazono’s psychotic break and struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Described as “a complex psychological and comedic narrative of the life and mind of LT Kimo Kitazono and his alter ego, Lapu (Hawaiian God of Darkness), who materializes as a defense mechanism in Kimo's mind during the War” I fully expected a dark novel that would provide disturbing insight into the front lines of war. Author James Frey has an extensive military background of his own which he brought into Kimo’s War to add authenticity to Kimo’s voice and story. The story, an Iraq war veteran who struggles to overcome his PTSD, has the potential to be an incredible military-fiction novel but it reads like a first-draft manuscript and overall, is disappointing.
The first, and most obvious, problem with the book is the overwhelming number of spelling, grammar and syntax errors. Within the first 10 pages I noted at least a dozen errors including the use of the plural women instead of woman when writing about a single character, the omission of the word “a” in the sentence “as new transaction” and a sentence fragment written as “…with the that wasn’t busy…” It was distracting. It became challenging to read as there are errors throughout the entire book. There is also a large number of parenthesis and side notes throughout the text that seem odd and out of place. The book would be better served to add these additional notations and asides as footnotes on the page or in an index at the end of the book. It’s possible that Frey was trying to write the story from the voice of Kimo with the parentheses being the voice of Lapu, the alter-ego, but it didn’t convey in the story. Instead if felt disjointed and as though they were side notes from the author to himself to review and expand upon when the second draft was written but the book never got that far. **I was notified by the author that the copy I received for review was pre-edit and did not contain all corrections and revisions. That being said, the errors I refer to regarding spelling, grammar and syntax may not apply to the latest versions of this book.** Ashley 08-16-13
The character voice was another thing I struggled with in this book. Kimo, the protagonist, struggles with PTSD and controlling his angry and vengeful alter-ego Lapu who is always trying to break out and take control. It’s similar to a multiple-personality psychotic break but Frey doesn’t take it quite that far. It would have been a better story if he had gone all the way and had Kimo’s psyche completely break. Kimo’s War is written from the third-person perspective but the character voice frequently gets lost and instead it feel as though Frey himself is ranting about the military or the media or civilians in general. I often felt as though I was reading a bitter journal by Frey instead of a fictional story of Kimo’s struggle. Frey has obvious issues with the government, military leaders, and US media which he makes no attempt to hide. There is a lot of anger in this book and it feels like it comes from Frey, not from Kimo. Kimo’s voice is lost. He’s there but he’s not dominant.
As a fan of military fiction novels and especially those that discuss the psychological struggles of war I had hoped to find a deep and complex novel about the PTSD suffered by Iraq war veterans. I was excited to read Kimo’s War and really wanted to love it. It has potential and the story is there it just needs to be edited, re-worked and finessed. My advice to Frey would be to pull the book, find a good editor, review the manuscript, edit and re-write, and then re-publish. He has such deep personal experiences to draw from, the complex psychological struggle is there and the idea is compelling. It could be great but, in this version, it’s not ready.
Review by Ashley LaMarClosed the Cover
**I was notified by the author that the copy I received for review was pre-edit and did not contain all corrections and revisions. That being said, the errors I refer to regarding spelling, grammar and syntax may not apply to the latest versions of this book.** Ashley 08-16-13