Shooting War
by Anthony Lappe, Dan Goldman (Grand Central, 2007)

It's obvious from the cover that Shooting War is a story founded in ideas. It has things to say about journalism, speaking truth to power, and capitalism as the most encroaching threat the world faces, as the force that bankrolls all terrorism. Distrust of the government is the viewpoint here, and the book wastes no time opening with vlogger (video blogger) Jimmy Burns caught in a terrorist bombing of a Starbuck's that destroys his home and gives him instant stardom and a career as an embedded journalist in the DMZ. It's an alternate future were McCain won and the war in Iraq is getting worse and worse, as in borderline nuclear war-style worse. All this in the first few pages.

The first problem is with the protagonist himself. From the name that's as contrived as the story, to the fact that Burns fails to make his mark as a mainstream journalist, there's little to recommend Jimmy Burns as a focal point for an effective critique. Burns -- whose independent blog started out as anti-corporate until everything he owned blew sky-high and he needed a paycheck -- is working for Lockheed Martin's new sensationalistic media company, under pressure to get more live exclusives from the war zone, and failing miserably.

And that's about it: there's a plot in there about Burns encountering escalating acts of violence and depravity but it's more as though things happen to him, he does things, he is moved from place to place, and characters appear and are then dropped. The ending falls flat. The message, the war and government dominance are bad, is perfectly understood by anyone with a conscience, but everything here feels like a retread due to the ham-handed writing and the barely hidden proselytizing.

Even though this was published in 2007 it feels dated even from its point of release. The nonstop violence can take you out of the story. The art is a combination of photorealism and ink, in a style that doesn't mesh well. Like the writing, it's unsuccessful at maintaining the balance between subjects.

review by
Mary Harvey

22 November 2014

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