- JP Cross
- 1.5 Mushroom Heads
“Operation Janus” by JP Cross tells the fictional (with a few sprinkles of fact) story of Alan Hinlea, an officer with a balanced view of the world – he has chips on both his shoulders. Aggrieved at post-WW2 colonialism and the upper class snobbism that he sees in his officer corps, he decides to defect to the Communist cause in the jungles of Malaya.
A small force of Gurkhas, led by British officer Jason Rance, track the Communists through the jungle, desperate to stop the traitorous Hinlea from reaching safety and giving the Communist insurgents a massive propaganda boost.
My expectations were high for this book as the blurb promised all the authenticity a retired jungle hand could offer and the premise was appealing. It is clear that the author has a great deal of experience in theatre and is very knowledgeable in unit operations as well as day to day living in the jungle.
But in any entertainment, it is necessary for you to remove yourself from your environs and place your faith in the story being told – whether it’s a movie, book or play. Suspension of disbelief means that you buy into the characters, the plot and any twists or turns thrown at you, within the realms of the constructed fiction.
When I watched Die Hard 4.0 for the first time, I was watching the semi-enjoyable rubbish that stretched reality until it finally broke. It was at the part where a would-be assassin is run over by a pickup truck, smashed through several walls and a lift shaft. With plaster-covered hair and a token stream of blood from her nose, she climbed up the wrecked truck to try and kill Bruce Willis.
I snorted a sigh of disbelief and gave up investing my emotions in the movie. It was just too unbelievable, even for Hollywood. A later scene with Bruce jumping off a fighter plane just cemented the daftness.
Sadly, I had too many similar experiences with “Operation Janus” where my disbelief wasn’t suspended; it was cut to the floor and shattered into a million pieces.
The traitor Alan Hinlea and the CO manage to come up with the same operation name independently of each other – Hinlea’s defection and the ensuing manhunt both end up with the titular “Operation Janus.” It’s a stretch.
Hinlea and the good guy posing as a bad guy Ah Fat are working together auditing secret files, yet after Hinlea’s defection, Ah Fat turns up at the Communist camp and Hinlea’s fears are waved away by Ah Fat’s assertion that Hinlea had been working with his twin, honest. Now my disbelief is tearing.
Along the trail, the ventriloquist Jason Rance and his crack Gurkhas have caught up with some of the Communists and are caught out when one of them needs a number two very near the hiding hunters.
Luckily, before the Commie can defecate over Rance, he uses his ventriloquism skills and pretends to be a snake yelling: “Don’t shit on my nest,” before thwacking the bare rump with a twig. The Communist believes it’s a snake bite and runs away, only realising later that the snake talked to him. No, I am not joking. Disbelief – shattered.
Caution – spoilers ahead - Other things that are unbelievable include jungle experts who don’t know that wet wood smokes when burnt, the hunting party lights a fire at night behind their prey on the trail and the expert tracker that Rance brings along with him is so expert that he, Rance, spends every comment telling this expert tracker how to do his job.
Finally, having Hinlea in his sights in a much depleted group, Rance’s crack Gurkha squad decide not to ambush the traitor’s four escorts and take him into custody. He decides to phone up HQ and have a bomber drop leaflets the next day in the hope they will defect.
There is also a problem with the clunky and unwieldy dialogue, which even allowing for 1950s formality, just comes across as stilted. Characters discuss their plans in detail, which feels like Basil Exposition and it shouldn’t. The story doesn’t describe, the characters do and they do it badly.
It gives me no pleasure whatsoever to give a hard-working author a review like this and especially not an ex-military man but I have a duty as a reviewer to be truthful and honest about the book I’ve just read. This book had such promise but it was let down by a multitude of flaws.
1.5 out of 5 communist pigdogs.