Sunday, June 5, 2011

Miles to Go by Amy Dawson Robertson

Book:  Miles to Go:  A Rennie Vogel Intrigue
Author:  Amy Dawson Robertson
Publisher:  Bella Books

There are a couple of things that make me giddy:   Warm, fuzzy puppy bellies, homemade chocolate ice cream, the scent of honeysuckle that swells after a late afternoon thunderstorm, warm sheets fresh from the dryer, and a hot butch with a gun.

For extra credit, guess which one makes my squishy little heart go thumpa thump thump.

Miles to Go is a tough, girls don’t let anyone see them cry debut from Amy Dawson Robertson.

And yes, the girls carry really big-ass guns, use them without hesitation, and slap every sexist notion imaginable up-side-the-head.

In this story of international intrigue and derring-do we meet Rennie Vogel, a focused, intense, solitary FBI agent who cracked the gender barrier to become the only active female member of the highly trained Counterterrorism Tactical Team.  The CT3 is summarily dispatched into the forests of Tajikistan on a mission to eradicate a crackpot extremist named Armin in a terrorist training camp 150 miles away.  Shortly after landing, the CT3 is ambushed by one of Armin’s couriers, leaving Rennie the sole survivor.

Stunned, and immensely critical of her lack of discipline, she loads up on supplies and continues on with the mission.   Facing brutal heat, dehydration, unbidden insecurity, and self-inflicted guilt over the deaths of her team, she presses on until she locates Armin’s camp on schedule and sets up the assassination.  As she’s waiting to take the kill shot, she discovers Hannah Marcus, a kidnapped American reporter long ‘suspected’ dead.  Rennie engineers a smooth rescue, sets up an escape diversion, and dispatches the megalomaniac with one sweet shot. 

That’s right, one sweet shot that gave a whole new meaning to the term ‘splitting headache’.

The girls escape, only to encounter new battles with bad guys with guns, exhaustion, and a government that doesn’t really seem to have their backs.  From there, the story is rife with a saucy little undercover CIA agent, a super agent gone rogue, an ill-conceived Islamic conversion, political slight-of-hand, secrets, lies, and a splash of psychological warfare.

And yes, underneath all the layers there is a bit of girl meets girl, girl wants to kiss girl, girl jumps from balcony to balcony to nuzzle up to girl, and finally, girl gets her hands and a few other parts on girl.

This book is almost a year and a half old, and the sequel is due out in late December, so the time seemed right to revisit the story and consider some of it’s tasty little nuggets.

First off, it’s not easy putting Miles to Go into any one category.  I’ve seen it described as ‘intrigue’, ‘action’, ‘adventure’, ‘mystery’, ‘political thriller’, and even ‘romance’.  In all honesty, it’s none of them and all of them.  There is just so much going on, I’m still trying to figure out how it all happened in 228 action-packed pages. 

The characters are rich and complicated, but kept surprisingly vague.  Miles to Go is only one piece of something bigger, more complex, and more sinister, and I get the sense that the arms-length character design was intentional. Through the course of the book, we learn so much about Rennie, but I can’t say we really know her, even by the end of the story.  In some ways, we get more out of Hannah, but still, I sensed there were some very rich areas that we weren’t given access into.  And, while we really didn’t spend much time with Martin Garrison, it was obvious that we only brushed the surface of his character. 

Strangely, we are given the clearest insight into the bit characters, and they were all pushing daisies by the end. 

I was completely fascinated by the fact that almost every character in the book experienced an existential crisis; and that none of them felt contrived or was used as a lame plot device to unnaturally prop up a critical element of the story.  Likewise, I loved how the definition of concepts such as black/white, wet/dry, hot/cold, living/dead, good/evil, right/wrong, trust/betrayal, country/duty held evolving meanings to the same characters as the story progressed.

Overall, I found Miles to Go intelligent, well researched and constructed, gritty, and infused with sharp jabs of haunting reality.  It was complex and exquisitely detailed but tightly written, and brilliantly designed to set up the sequel.  The first time I read it, I kept muttering, ‘very cool, but why this, why here and now?'  The second time I read it, I found a wealth of subtle answers, but even a few more questions I totally missed the first time through.

So, what you’re saying is the book is sort of like an onion?

Well, that’s an inelegant way of putting it, but yes.  The book is sort of like an onion, and I mean that in the most complementary of ways, since I’m looking forward to getting some of the answers in the sequel, Scapegoat.  I want to know more about Rennie and Hannah, where they go, how they individually deal with the fallout, and I want to see another battle of good versus evil, even if the lines aren’t so clear anymore.

Miles to Go isn’t quite like any book I’ve read, and I’m giving extra points for originality, complexity, and because it delivers a good, swift kick of reality to the solar plexus of blind nationalism.  This book gets a 5.2 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale.

1 comment:

  1. Ditto your post, Salem. I'm new to reading (but not writing) lesbian fiction and was pleased that Miles To Go wasn't just a romance but rather a compelling mix of intrigue, politics, and gutsy women. A good read.