Author: Michael Murphy
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages
At a Glance: Evac had such promise. However, a need to twist certain realities to produce a happy ever after really derailed this story from its initial trajectory.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: While on a mission in northern Afghanistan, Benji’s helicopter is shot down. Benji went in with a band of brothers but comes out with a stack of body bags, including one for his partner, Blade.
After recovering physically in Germany, Benji is sent home to San Diego. He’s been a soldier so long he doesn’t know how to live as a civilian. The loss of his brothers and his partner weighs heavily on him. Benji’s body might be healed, but he is still a very broken man. Unable to find work, Benji turns to drinking, bar fights, risky sex with anonymous men, and striking out at everything. As he spirals out of control, he even tries volunteering in a BDSM club as a sub for demonstrations and private scenes.
Despair drives Benji to action, and he meets Nick, a young man in desperate need of hope. With his options and his money running out, the only question is if Benji will find his way in time.
Review: Benji is a war-hardened soldier. Used to being sent on missions that are risky at best, his final mission was almost routine for him and his crew. Among his band of brothers is his secret lover, Blade, the man Benji is set on spending the rest of his life with once they are discharged a few months hence. But this mission is different from the get-go, and before it is over, Benji will be the last man standing, and the guilt of that truth will haunt him for the rest of his life.
Sent to recover in an army hospital in Germany, Benji must now begin to pick up the fragmented pieces of his life, and somehow deal with the horrific nightmares and flashbacks that plague him and leave him unable to function in society. Summarily discharged and sent home to San Diego, Benji must now make his way and survive the downward spiral that communicates into destructive behavior. But each risk he takes is necessary, for it becomes the only thing that makes him feel alive.
This novel, Evac by Michael Murphy, began with such incredible promise. The feel of the desert, the men being pinned down, the fear and panic at being ambushed, all played out with incredible truth. Roughly the first third of this story is so visceral and raw that you feel as though you are living the horror that became Benji’s life. Then, a series of questionable moves on the author’s part threw the story into a bit of chaos and gradually made it hard to believe. So many questions about how Benji was released from service began to plague this story. Having had two brothers who are ex-military, I knew immediately that this was an area Mr. Murphy had twisted the plot to satisfy his story’s needs.
Unfortunately, such things as why Benji’s family was never contacted when he was in hospital; the reality that he was released with only the clothes on his back and nothing more; the fact that he was never made to check in and file reports on exactly what happened that horrible day his group was pinned down and systematically slaughtered; all these things made the story seem just so disjointed and unbelievable. This is the military we are talking about, and for a lone surviving soldier to be shuttled off without any proper discharge was just too much to believe.
As the story progressed, the dialogue became more stilted and Benji’s actions more erratic. While it was more than plausible for us to watch this man fall apart, the repetitive retelling of the exact same scene where the chopper was shot down grew thin. More importantly, we never got a real glimpse into Benji and Blade’s clandestine affair in Afghanistan. Given the idea that he was going to live with Blade post military career, I expected the constant flashbacks to include some of their intimate moments on base. I needed to understand more of Benji’s backstory so that his soul wrenching loss made sense. But the novel sped forward, telling us the story rather than showing us. Like a third party observer, the reader was expected to accept the inconsistencies in the plot and not worry that the result made one feel less and less emotionally engaged in Benji’s life.
Evac had such promise. However, a need to twist certain realities to produce a happy ever after really derailed this story from its initial trajectory. In the end, we were left with a questionable plot, less than convincing dialogue, and a real disappointment over a story that never seemed to find its way.
You can buy Evac here: