The Servants Of Freedom Review
by: Daniel Jolley - Amazon.com Reviewer
An impressive, literary window into a fighter pilot's life.
The Servants of Freedom is quite a captivating read, proving to be something quite different than what I expected. Since the author is a former military man writing a novel about military life, I expected a rather efficient, maybe even terse, writing style. I expected a lot of thrilling activity in the skies, some nail-biting aerial encounters with enemy planes, and a heavy emphasis on action. What I quickly discovered, though, was a highly literary novel that focuses primarily on the inner workings and thoughts of an engaging, highly personable main character. It took me a couple of chapters to really get into the book and properly get my bearings, but the novel really captured my imagination and held it from that point on.
The Servants of Freedom does not have a standard plot to it. In most novels, the entire story seems to lead up to some climactic event, with virtually no extraneous material along the way. That cannot be said of this novel, and that might be a slight weakness. I was never rewarded with a truly climactic moment; in fact, I found the conclusion rather open-ended. I wanted a little more elaboration as to what just happened on the final page, yet I cannot say the ending was not well written. My own feelings actually reinforce the author's skills in developing his characters and making them a vital part of my own life. I wasn't ready to give up my participation in the lives of these wonderful characters.
The novel is set primarily in Germany in 1971. Troy Pearson has completed all of his flight schooling and now begins his career as an air force pilot with the rank of lieutenant, deploying to Landstuhl Airbase. We basically accompany him as he settles in for this new phase of his life, taking in details many an author would have taken for granted; it is in these details, though, that Pearson's personality and character are expressed most impressively. Parris makes great use of military lingo (for which he, most helpfully, provides a glossary of terms and acronyms), putting the reader firmly into the military mindset of his protagonist. The very night of his arrival, he lives through a bombing at the Officer's Club, an act of terrorism committed by the infamous Baader-Meinhof Gang. He later survives an armed robbery committed by the same gang of thugs. His reaction to these life-threatening events seemed a little nonchalant to me, though, and not merely for reasons of stoic military discipline. I expected this string of terrorist activity to be at the heart of the book's plot, but it eventually seemed to fall away as emphasis shifted almost solely on the mind and feelings of Lt. Pearson. A large part of this story focuses on Pearson's search for companionship, and he seems to have no problems attracting the ladies. Mere hours after his arrival on base, he begins an exciting and somewhat mysterious relationship with a relatively young army brat, but this relationship that seemed to offer so much intrigue and potential is eventually subsumed by Pearson's almost instant love affair with Airman Cynthia York. The initial relationship supplied what I expected would be one of the true climaxes of the story, and I was a little disappointed to see what I viewed as an important and perhaps unifying subplot fall by the wayside in the final chapters. The affair with C.Y. has plenty of climactic potential of its own, as the military frowns upon such affairs between officers and enlisted personnel, and this inspiring story turned out far differently than I expected. Parris does a masterful job telling the whole story, and it is to his credit that he lets the action play out in an unpredictable manner.
The Servants of Freedom provides an intimate look into the life and character of one brave soldier serving his country during a traumatic time in American history - the debilitating effects of the Vietnam Conflict and the overarching specter of the Cold War itself overshadow everything that Pearson sees and does, as does the threat of terrorism (represented here by the violently socialist objectives of the Baader-Meinhof Gang). While the amount of goosebump-creating action turns out to be surprisingly low, we are treated to the experience of flying from the pilot's point of view - from the emotional high of taking to the air to the crushing blow of disaster. The novel covers only a week or so in Pearson's life, but the reader feels as if he knows the character intimately long before the book reaches its conclusion. This is a surprisingly personal novel that puts you inside the mind of a young pilot encountering the types of dangers that still exist today, years after the Cold War was won. It is impressive in its scope, highly polished in its literary style, and undeniably captivating.