British Empire Books

The First To Land

AuthorDouglas Reeman
ISBN No.0091586607

"God, here they come! Blackwood hauled himself on to the barricade as a mass of Boxers charged into it like a battering ram. He felt it shake as yelling faces and corpses were jammed together below his feet, hacking and stabbing while the marines met them again blade to blade."

Douglas Reeman conveys his story of the dashing Royal Marines saving the day in the midst of the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. The exotic setting and colourful characters are unable to mask much of the blandness and stereotyping found in this book. All of the characters are transparently simplistic to the point of banality. Sergeant-Majors are compared to God, all the privates are stoical figures trying to make the best of their humble origins and as for the officers; they are faultless to a man. The only 'bad' character of any note is the one who is obviously on some sort of redemptive journey and who ultimately saves the day at the end of the book. The token woman is only throne in for the stodgy romance angle. It feels like this book is the literary equivalent to a trashy hollywood flick. Action and romance in place of plot and substance.

The storyline, if you can call it that, consists of a dashing Marine officer (and VC holder of course) and detachment of marines escorting a boat into the interior of China. This routine mission goes horribly awry when all foreigners are suddenly attacked by hordes of fanatical Boxers. Various acts of bravery get them out of some lucky scrapes time and again. By the end of the book, they are holed up in the fortress in Tientsin awaiting relief. I won't tell you how it ends, but I get the feeling that you can probably guess for yourself.

For all my griping, within its own genre this book isn't so bad. It's a pleasant enough read that requires little brain power. You won't get much historical insight out of it, but then again you wouldn't have put too much effort in to it in the first place. Regard it as a scene setter and you might just take something of value out of it.

Buy this book at: Amazon

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by Stephen Luscombe