Oliver's Reviews > The Sand Sea

The Sand Sea by Michael   McClellan
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it was ok

** spoiler alert ** The plot here is Indiana Jones meets Lawrence of Arabia meets large-scale combat a-la Return of the King, which sounds like it could be great, but ultimately I just couldn't enjoy it. The issues that stood out for me were:

1) It's very straightforward with its colonialism and orientalism. I kept waiting for the twist, the glimmer of some more modern values, but they are not there.

2) Similarly, there's a big issue with the way characters ogle one another (the classic over-description of women's bodies in situations where that makes zero sense), plus gratuitous brothel scenes and a totally out-of-nowhere rape of a main character, seemingly just to drive home "these are the bad guys." It's lazy and gross.

3) There's also a lot of lingering over violence, especially torture.

The book feels like it wants to be a plucky adventure story but it's stuck inside a broody novel that isn't executed carefully enough to pull off the darker themes. A lighter thematic palette and taking itself less seriously would have made it great. I think it's easy to conflate "reads like it was written a long time ago" and "feels like great fantasy literature," but don't be duped: this book is only the former.
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Reading Progress

May 17, 2020 – Shelved
May 17, 2020 – Shelved as: to-read
June 13, 2020 – Started Reading
June 19, 2020 – Finished Reading

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Patrick Oliver can I ask did you finish the book? Also did you get the ARC version and is that why you are leaving the review?


Oliver Hi Patrick, yes and yes. Thanks for asking.


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