“The Red Cliffs of Zerhoun”; a Review

redcliffs-print.jpgLong ago I recall a conversation I had with a Professor of English, who had more degrees and blind utopian zest that was good for him.

“Do you know the difference between fiction and good fiction?”

“Plausibility?” I replied dryly, half caring.

“In a sense, yes. Plausibility, or the suspension of disbelief is one which compels the reader. But there is another- deeper. A story that has something to say, asking a question or telling a truth; that- that is the mark of good fiction.” He replied, sternly staring juxtaposed to his characteristically jovial demeanor.

Good fiction thus must have something to say; a lesson, an allegory. Not fiction for fiction’s sake. It must tell us something we otherwise would not know. This brings us to the question of genre fiction as it stands- what is the point? Is it merely the suspension of disbelief, an enjoyment for a spell, a fantasy? Does it earn laud where accurate or is it read simply for its entertainment value? For this reader, genre fiction comes in several varieties with varying degrees of skill. Some is just entertaining. Some seeks a deeper purpose and falls flat in doing so. And some tales written become modern classics based not on the tale itself but the questions it begs the reader to contemplate on that deeper level. A message, a warning to be heeded.

Bracken’s The Red Cliffs of Zerhoun recalls several tales by authors I consider standouts of their genre; LeCarre, Forsythe, Ludlum, and yes, Hemmingway. In the case of each, the authors at least on some level or another had working knowledge of their subject and a mastery of the art of fiction. The suspension of disbelief was quite simple- the characters are real, genuine, and based upon, in varying degrees, the very people of which the authors experienced. Genre fiction, even decent novels and knowledgeable authors, usually fall short by simply existing for their own sake, posing no real questions but rather simply entertaining. While nothing is wrong with the paperback writer simply telling entertaining tales, the reader is left little at the novel’s close. But of the above mentioned, those frequently pointed to as the marquee of their craft, this novel, beyond all of his before, rises to mention with the likes of The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, The Dogs of War, and For Whom The Bell Tolls. Each tell us something on multiple levels, either as a cautionary tale of the human cost of warfare, the hard look at the men it takes for such a task, or a stern and predictive warning. Red Cliffs is all of the above, and should be read every bit as deep as the gravity of that implication.

Bracken creates a cast of characters that could easily come off the pages; these people are real and visceral, and for those of us who’ve been there or seen the elephant, as a good friend would say, these are people we know and have worked with. The emotions they feel, the flaws they exhibit, and their motivations drawing them to the fire- these are all people that have names in the minds of many. That realism makes the story that much more compelling, driving home the deeper purpose of this novel.

In it we find an unlikely alliance in a world turned upside down- two sides of a Christian conflict, unified against the very existential threat mutually destroying society. We are relayed second hand accounts of a Europe wrecked by the very decades of socialism which promised progress at the cost of their identity. The allegory of the intolerability of blind bigotry is made, even amid numerous justifications. Bracken very cautiously reminds us that painting with too broad a brush is a problem, albeit a human problem. Perhaps cornerstone to it all is the brilliant illustration of the brutality of fundamentalist islam- an illustration which so many of us know all too well, but are repeatedly told is nonsense by those claiming to be our betters while berating our own culture as a tool of oppression. This novel casts a light on that brutal world not frequently explored and never truly understood, but verily coming to fruition.

This novel is not an instruction guide to doomsday, it is not a cardboard fantasy of good and bad guys, it is not a simplistic fun summer read on a beach or a boat. One could absorb it simply for the tactical pointers, the lessons and examples both good and bad, or simply a brilliantly written adventure, but to do so would be selling both yourself and the story far short. It would and should be at the top of every best seller list, were the world sane. It is a novel which should be hailed as a contemporary classic as with its aforementioned peers, repeatedly read for its value both as art and fiction as well as the truth of the tale it tells.

All this of course, were the world sane.

22 thoughts on ““The Red Cliffs of Zerhoun”; a Review

  1. P76

    Thank you for the review…. the book is currently on my Fire to read.. Only on the first chapter. I have enjoyed MB’s other books and look forward to getting deeper into this one.

  2. Pingback: Brushbeater: Review Of Bracken’s ‘Red Cliffs Of Zerhoun’ | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  3. ApoloDoc

    Well stated, my brother! With each book Bracken shows his growth as a novelist, and his prophetic voice resonates so well with the insanity of the age. I have purchased all of his books via Kindle but am now going to order a case of various books to share. Yes, this book is THAT important.

    At Matt’s recommendation I downloaded and read Kratman’s “Caliphate” written some years ago but covering the same topic, Islamic slavery. It’s is a clear example that we are in a spiritual war when past slavery in America means all white people are evil, but the Islamic slave traders then AND now are never addressed.

    Keep up the good work, my friend!

    1. Thank you.

      And don’t forget that we are a nation under Judgement. His minor hints at the decline of the domestic situation are a reflection of this fact.

      1. ApoloDoc

        Absolutely! Short of a true revival, a “3rd Great Awakening,” America will be down for the count. Instead of repenting of abortion, promiscuity, and homosexuality we are doubling down with the INSANITY of “transgender-ism” which is so patently illogical and incoherent, it requires a thoroughly dumbed-down society to buy it.

        Let’s see: the Left denies God, holding to a materialist/naturalistic worldview that only allows matter, energy, space, and time. There is no “spirit” or “soul” and even the mind is viewed as some sort of confusing byproduct. We are just “molecules in motion.” Okay, taking that viewpoint, if someone disagrees with the PHYSICAL reality of his/her genitalia, claiming “I am NOT the gender of my body,” then what is the “I” who is experiencing this disconnect? In other words, if all one’s worldview allows is physical objects, what is this ‘self’ that is displeased with its genitalia? This disconnect REQUIRES a separate body and soul, but that is totally denied by their view of reality…

        Come QUICKLY, Lord Jesus!

      2. It’s important to point out that “transgender-ism” is one conclusion of individualist framework. Liberalism, both classical and post-modern, encourage it. That’s why we have identity politics and why children are encouraged from their infancy to be “special” when they are no such thing.

        No ‘anarcho-‘ anything or libertarian can accept this fact or are intelligent enough to figure it out. There must exist a social cohesion with standards; other societies built around their religions (Islam, Hinduism, etc) do this. The West doesn’t. Religion takes a backseat to individual hubris. And here we are.

      3. S6cnrdude

        I’ve been out of my normal mode as of late. I’m sitting in an airport in CT as I type this – ready to get home!
        I too believe we are under Judgement. It’s only His grace that’s holding things together now in my mind.
        I was listening to a conversation a day or so ago and it’s amazing to me how many people don’t see how or why something could happen – natural disaster, financial chaos, or war all of which are outlined in the Word. Ref Matthew 24, Luke 21, Revelation 6 and others.
        We have gone so far from God, I don’t see how we could get much further away. I pray for mercy (even though I and we don’t deserve it) but more importantly that I will be found faithful to Him.

      4. PRCD

        God’s hammer of judgment appears to be about to fall. As Camille Paglia said, transgenderism is a sign of a civilization in late-stage decline. This time, the barbarians are overseas but the airlines and government will help them get here.

      5. snowmiser-04

        Our King says: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” We are more than conquerors. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s all over but waiting the rapture. The gospel of the Kingdom is power to save sinners and bring the dead to life.

        Jonah thought Nineveh was beyond saving, but through his preaching the Spirit turned them, and the Lord had mercy on them.

        Everyone watch the Eclipse Monday. It is truly a miracle from our King. There is no other place in the solar system, and perhaps the universe, where one can see a perfect total eclipse.

        Go Gophers, ApoloDoc!

  4. Publius

    Thanks for the review. I intend to read it, but decided I need to read Castigo Cay first (about a third of the way through, now) and then White Gold before getting into Red Cliffs.

  5. Michael

    I got my copy in a box of mail late on Saturday after returning from a week long road trip then read all but sixty pages on Sunday before I fell asleep. I finished it yesterday as soon as I could sit down to do so. Those facts alone will do for my testimonial.

  6. dumpkaine

    I do intend to purchase and read all of Matt Bracken’s books.

    I wonder if someone can tell me how he deals with the subject of traitorous punching right?

    1. PRCD

      Treachery is a huge problem in the West right now. What dd Cicero say about traitors? There are so many now that nothing can be done about their corrosion of our civilization. It would almost be unjust to prevent their crimes from blowing back on them by saving them.

      Traitors are never dealt with left of bang, it seems.

  7. June J

    I bought the Kindle version a couple weeks ago because Amazon couldn’t seem to get their crap together and get the paperback available. Finally today I was able to order the paperback. I have been saving the book to read on vacation in Florida next week. Beach, beer and Bracken!

  8. LodeRunner

    As with life, so it is with good fiction – it’s all about the search for meaning… and “meaning” is another word for Truth. What Bracken captures in each of his books – and perhaps best in ‘Cliffs…’ – is the many ways in which some are determined to get to the Truth, and others are determined to get as far away from it as possible. Some moving subtly, others grossly, but all are moving one way or the other – and none of it is as clear-cut as we (or the characters) would like. Getting to know each of them, scratching out their particulars with each subsequent itch, is what takes the characters beyond believable, and makes them ‘real’.

    Add to that an honest and unerring presentation of the tactical, political, and socio-economic situations we currently face, and Bracken has given us, once again, a rich perspective on our current situation and where it may lead, under the cloak of fiction.

    Excellent stuff all around. You’ll want to re-read it.

  9. Mike Hohmann

    Exceptional review. Currently reading Bracken Anthology and have RCO Zerhoun on Kindle. Thx.

  10. Maddog

    Wow!! Great read! Too short…… Bought the “Enemies” series audio books. The first one got my wife and I from Texas to Glacier Nat Park and 1/2 way home. Great listening! Hard to see Hollywood ever letting “Zerhoun” become a movie (too bad). Wood love to hear a “future” audio for “Zerhoun” with a Multi male / female, multi character ethnic voice team. It would be like old time radio!! This 30 year Navy man sez “Thanks Matt!!”

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