Khyber Run is a very interesting war novel and definitely kept my attention from beginning to end but it’s very oddly published with Loose Id. The story is absolutely not a romance, there is no discernable evidence of romance anywhere, and there are a few explicit sex scenes based on situations rather than emotion. Instead, this is a very absorbing read about the war in Afghanistan and the personal affect on one family and in particular one person. His quest to avenge his brother is the main theme and if anything this is merely a fictional story about war. Maybe if you squint it could be called gay fiction due to the few quickie rough sex scenes but that’s still a stretch in my opinion. If you’re looking for a very intricately detailed war story from a personal level, this may work for you.
The story begins somewhat choppy with a hungover, and possibly still drunk, Zarak Momand. He’s riding in an airplane with no idea of how he got there or why he’s there. Soon Zarak finds out they want him to find a traitor, one that murdered his brother Ben and is possibly hiding on Momand land. The chance to avenge his brother and find his people is irresistible to Zarak and he agrees, despite the blackmail and kidnapping. Once he sets off, the path is anything but easy and the various obstacles he encounters just makes him more determined.
The beginning is very rough with a lot of nicknames and lingo thrown at the reader without a lot of context. The first person narrator, Zarak, is drunk and jostled and so the story feels very much the same at the start. It eventually evens out and becomes much more seamless and smooth but it takes a bit to get into it. Once there the somewhat limited and linear plot begins. The whole point of the story is for Zarak, also called many other things in the story, to find the traitor hiding among his people. The path there veers into random asides such as local games or encounters with unfriendly people. The plot feels somewhat weak in that there is not much to it. Zarak is out for revenge, but again not really and he doesn’t realize all the various ramifications until almost the very end.
The inclusion of Oscar, Zarak’s guide and companion on the trip, is interesting but he’s far from any romance hero. The two have uncomplicated, rough sex but there are so many more questions brought up that aren’t ever resolved. Such as why Oscar called out Zarak’s brother’s name during sex especially when Oscar later states the brother was straight. Did they have sex once? No sex but an emotional connection? Like so many other issues, more questions are brought up than answered. This is especially frustrating with the somewhat non-ending. The story just stops without a definite ending and answers.
What remain the strengths of the story are definitely the incredible amount of information and detail offered. I’ve no idea if the details are correct but the sheer overwhelming number of details and immersive world building is impressive. The amount of research that must have gone into this story is somewhat staggering so I assume that any details included are on point. They all converge to offer a very graphic and realistic world of the war in Afghanistan. The incredibly high cost on a personal and more global level is staggering and the effects on all kinds of people make for a somewhat sad but fascinating story.
I’m pretty impressed with Green’s writing and the story itself but it’s not perfect. It’s also badly mismarketed being sold at a romance publisher when it doesn’t belong there at all. The story and depth remains somewhat light, with the details and cultural differences doing heavy lifting in the novel rather than the plot or characters themselves. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing however and makes what could be a very depressing topic engaging and interesting to read without needing breaks. I’d suggest this book for those readers looking specifically for a war novel from a personal perspective but not anyone who’s looking for romance amid a war setting.