Monday, December 17, 2012

The Last of the Breed by Louis L'amour

Book Review: The Last of the Breed by Louis L'amour 


Things to know up front...

Recommended to: Western fans, action fans, people more interested in story than quality

Rating: 1/10

Setting: Siberia, sometime during the Cold War

Content:
  • No profanity that I can recall (it's possible that there may be a damn or two). 
  • Basically no sexual content. A woman is in a sexual relationship with her employer, but it isn't blatantly state, and there aren't any sex scenes. 
  • Several people are shot and killed with either guns or a bow and arrow. There are also some deaths by booby trap how embarrassing. Most of this violence, however, is stated matter-of-fact-ly rather than in bloody detail. 
  • The writing isn't too complex, although there is some big vocab. 
  • Overall, this is pretty suitable for readers around the 'YA' age and up (though I highly doubt young readers would like it). 
A Warning: I'm gonna rip this to shreds, and I apologize for how hateful this review is going to be. If you happen to be a fan of Louis L'amour, you may want to avoid this because it will probably enrage you. 


The Last of the Breed is the survival story of Joe Makatozi, more often called Joe Mack gag me after he escapes his captors in Siberia. Joe Mack has to master the elements of the deadly and icy terrain, using the skills of his Native American ancestors to survive as an all-out manhunt ensues. 

The Positives

-The adventure. All other things aside, this is a very interesting and adventurous plot. Too bad that it's the novels only selling point.

The Negatives

-Joe Mack. Honestly, this man is the most arrogant, annoying protagonist ever invented, and even worse, he has no technical flaws. Do you think he struggles, even for a second, in the 70 below temperatures of Siberia? Nah, he'll just keep killing a bunch of large animals easily with the aid of his homemade bow and arrow. Then he'll make 10,000 pairs of mocassins from their skin, including a pair that has elk hooves attached to their soles to make his tracks look like that of an animal...I'm not even kidding.

I honestly wanted him to get captured and die. That's right folks, I was rooting for the Soviets. That's how much I *hated* Joe Mack.


-The writing. Dear Lord, why did you let Louis L'amour ever become an author? The man rarely ventured beyond simple independent clause sentences, and even when he did, it was bland and awkward. It overall made me want to gouge my eyes out came off feeling poorly executed and too simple. Please, allow me to provide you with some examples:

"The hunters took that one startled look and then scrambled to escape. All three made it."
"Dark were the forests, dark and still. Now it was snowing again, a thick heavy snow falling steadily, and there was no other sound but that of falling snow, a whisper faint, faint yet discernible."
Please, tell me more about the snow. 
 "He went swiftly into the night and swiftly through the forest."
 "Cold it was, even with the fire, bitter cold. He added fuel and thought of Natalya, so far away now, and hoped she was warm and away from the wind."
"It was cold...cold."
"He was cold, cold!"
Probably you are thinking that I'm overreacting, but honestly, the entire book is full of stuff like this. Awkward, short, repetitive things like these...oh, and much, much more about the cold. Oiii.


-The attempted love story. As if things weren't bad enough, Louis had to throw in an underdeveloped and completely inauthentic feeling love interest in Natalya (because what else could a Russian woman possibly be named?). To top it all off, it was written in that awkward style again. Prepare yourself for more examples:

"A last golden leaf from from an aspen fell and lodged in her hair. Joe Mack looked away. She was a woman, this one." 
(Glad you caught on, Joe.) 
"Did she truly love him? Or was it that he had brought some strange magic into their empty, colorless lives?He had given them meat, but more than that he had given them hope."
 "He must not die! He had too much to offer, he was too good a man, and he was her father. He was all she had...All? She thought of Joe Mack. Was there really anything there? Or was it all a dream? An impossible dream?" 


-The emphasis on his heritage. Okay, I get it, Joe Mack is a super cool Sioux--but my stars!--did that need to be reiterated every chapter? I cannot tell you how many times I read sentence that was along the lines of he was a Sioux, a Sioux warrior, or, 'He's an Indian? A real Red Indian, like from the films?' I'm sure L'amour was really patting himself on the back for making a cool Native American protagonist, but honestly, he would've been cooler if Louis didn't have to keep reminding us that he made a cool Native American protagonist.


-It feels incredibly unrealistic. It already takes some suspension of disbelief to take in that a man is surviving in the ridiculously low temperatures in Siberia in which you can get frostbite in literally seconds, but to believe that he can do it for a year? And not get caught by the Soviets? Or eaten by an animal? At one point he narrowly escapes a bear by climbing up a tree, though it does catch one of his legs with its claws, but is this a problem? 'Course not! Just a scratch! And when he later kills and skins this same bear, he carries what is specifically designated 300 pounds of meat and hide across the mountains in his pack...300 pounds! Seriously?! That would be hard enough if one was at peak physical shape, and basically impossible if you've been stranded in freaking Siberia for weeks!

My favorite unrealistic moment, though, definitely has to be when Joe has been in Siberia for months, and it's absolutely freezing, and he has to be careful to not work up a sweat so that it won't freeze on his skin. Alright, that makes plenty of sense, I thought to myself, even though I was slightly annoyed that the author mentioned it so many times, but then when Joe is avoiding some baddies, L'amour hits me with this one:
"He ran the next twenty miles in almost marathon time, rested briefly, and then started again at a much slower pace."
Huh. Guess Joe Mack isn't too worried about working up a sweat anymore! And come on, I don't care if Joe Mack almost went to the Olympics, you don't just up and run twenty miles in marathon time after living off of whatever kill you can get in the icy wilderness for months on end. Then again, I guess I'm forgetting that Joe is a real Red Indian, like from the movies! He can do anything!


-The dialogue. Honestly, it hurts me that Louis thought that people speak so woodenly. Maybe it's the hat: clearly it's blocking some brainwaves.
  Sigh. Look at what a cute old man he is. Why did you have to write this novel, Louis, why?


-The fact that I could go on and on with how bad it was....but I'm not going to, as a kindness to all readers of this review. 

Overall

It was painful. I honestly haven't felt this hostile towards a novel in years. I mean, really, any book that makes you root for the Soviets has got to be pretty bad. 

I'm not sure if Louis L'amour is really a terrible writer, or if this is just an exceptionally terrible book of his. I can only recommend this to people that enjoy the Western genre because I can't imagine anyone else being able to tolerate it. So just stay away from it! Away, I say! You'll be doing yourself a huge favor!



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