Thursday, 29 May 2014

Sniper's Honor by Stephen Hunter


It was a balmy November day in Stalingrad, 14 below, twelve feet of snow, near-blizzard conditions.

As this starts with weather, my initial urge is to fail it, banish the book back to the library shelf and troll YouTube comments. However, there are a couple things that attract my attention about this line, despite the weather. The use of sarcasm to establish some tone and the mention of Stalingrad. Most people are already aware of the battle that was the beginning of the end of Hitler and its brutality, so there isn't too much else to say. Setting is established with one word. Anyone interested it this plot of history will be hooked.

The next sentence is about weather too. However, from that point the story delves into details like Kfz 251's, T-34's and geography like Tauvinskaya and Smarkandskaya streets with healthy bouts of back story as a character is revealed - resume style. Nevertheless, the scene that unfolds is fascinating to read, and it's not long either, coming in at under six pages. It shows a German sniper preparing for a shot but he himself gets shot instead, which actually saves his life, as he is one of the last Germans to be airlifted out of there. The prologue ends by saying the sniper lived a long life, dying an old man with grandchildren, before adding: The sniper who shot him was the White Witch. We infer that this is a woman, as whoever it is, has a cascade of hair, bright as gold, reflecting in the sunlight. It's nice that at least women (or one woman) fighting in Stalingrad were issued shampoo and conditioner, to give them that shining, full-bodied look, that men would die for.

Chapter 1:

Outside Cascade
The Homestead
The Present

He was an old man in a dry month.

Surprise, surprise! Of course, the novel does not take place in the same time as the titillating prologue, so all those who were hoping for another epic Stalingrad battle novel, well...ha-ha to you. The only good thing about the opening sentence of this novel is that the line is short. Other than that, we have a pronoun and some weather.

First thing said:

"Not much time left, Gunther."

Even though the novel's title is simple in a non-creative way, it does tell us something about the story and that there will be something about the sniper's code and honor. So this title is important to establishing a hook.

Verdict: Fail

I suppose if one reads this genre there is a hook here. I'm tempted to read on. I liked the prologue, but beginning chapter 1 in another time and place, seriously puts me off.

Theodore Moracht

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