Pavel Hak’s short novel is a violent account of an imagined war in an unnamed country, clearly inspired by the terrible conflicts in the Balkans. The book is made up of four interlinking stories; an evil commander who carries out the most horrific torture, all graphically described, a group of refugees trying to flee the country, a man trying to recover his family’s remains from a mass grave to give them a proper burial and a psychopathic, nihilistic sniper who takes pot shots at anyone rude enough to try and survive the conflict.
The novel is not for the faint-hearted; its accounts of the brutality of war are disturbing and sickening, reminding the safe West of the terrifying reality faced by those trapped in conflict zones around the world. Overall, however, Hak is unable to back up his graphic descriptions with much substance, making the novel a rather gratuitous mess of shock tactics. Hak is trying to be hard-hitting and controversial and to an extent he is, making the reader square up to the human suffering caused by conflicts often ignored by those who could help solve them, but his characters are underdeveloped and unconvincing. The book becomes an orgy of violence which is far less effective than a human story one can relate to.