David Shafer’s Debut Novel: “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” Could’ve Used More of All Three

This book stirs a flurry of thoughts and emotions without directing them, which is both refreshing and maddening. There are three main characters: Leo: a failed bookstore owner, Mark: former room-mate of Leo and now successful self-help author and Leila: working for a NGO in Myanmar when she sees something that she’s not supposed to.

The strongest moments in the book are when any combination of the characters are woven together. These scenes read naturally and give us an understanding of their personalities and lifestyles. The chapters are each written from the perspective of one of the three and allow the reader intimate takes on each. Things get a bit messy with the underlying plot.

The Committee is an international cabal of industrialists and media barons on the verge of privatizing all information. Dear Diary is an idealistic online Underground which attempts to block the takeover with radical spying, interception techniques and political attacks. Leila, Mark and Leo all come into contact with both groups.

This book is the odd example of when the strengths in the story-telling are also the weaknesses. Shafer uses unexpected word combinations and often chooses words which are not a part of most reader’s usual vocabulary. His use of imagery is stunning: “The points he made were like lily pads on the surface of a lake- the monstrous lily pads he had seen once in a Florida swamp, you wouldn’t want to get too comfortable on those, but you could alight on one briefly, take a breath and move on to the next.”

The biggest disappointment in the novel comes in the last quarter of the book. While hundred’s of pages are spent revealing the story, it rushes to a very unsatisfying conclusion.

My Rating: 3 stars
Publication Date: August 2014
ISBN: 978-0-316-25263-8
Page Count: 432 pages
Publisher: Mulholland Books

*Thank you NetGalley for providing me with a review copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.*

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