COVER FIRE

FICTION BY KAREN G. BOOTH

Peach Blossom Publications
ISBN: 0-941367-32-0
On a battlefield it matters little whether you fight for a right cause or a wrong one; whether you are decorated with a Purple Heart or a Silver Star; whether you are a proud officer or a humble soldier. When a bomb explodes near your feet, when hostile forces loose hell over your head; when you breath nothing but blood, perspiration and uncertainty, you are shattered inside, unrecoverably. You are at war with yourself. You fail to contemplate the causes and the ethics. You simply refuse to reason. You smile at your enemy and raise your rifle.

...Sounds rung in our ears, sharp, like the blade of grass. The pores of our skin took in the air, searching for sour unwashed uniforms, mingled with gun oil, and the greasy, oily stink of a German. I could hear the heartbeat of a cricket...

        Cover Fire is less about battlefield than about the psychology of war. The book guides you through the varied 'contributions' of war—the structured disarrangement, the shattered pieces of human anatomies, the plights of the soldiers (very often victims themselves) and the physical and mental scars that once realized will be borne throughout their lives.
        The author, Ms. Karon G. Booth, herself a teacher and an active educationist, takes up the challenge of raising fundamental questions about war.

...A war that made life stale as you dragged one foot in front of the other from nowhere to nowhere. Where every wall was broken, every window smashed, every green or fresh thing booby-trapped...

        It all begins with World War II, when Lieutenant Morgan and his band of brothers arrive behind the enemy lines with a mission to detect and deter 'The Screecher' from firing on the Allied forces. Their search leads them on series of misadventures, traumas and uncertainities, which form the heart of Cover Fire. The story grips the imagination from the start. Ms. Booth's construction of simple and short sentences aptly suits the subject

...I sneezed again, annoying me. Moved my little finger up, then down. Gasping air trapped between our helmets, I set forth the theory—I was alive. Life brought terror—lost in the dark, buried in the ground, alive in a grave with a corpse on top of me. I screamed out, but only in mind...

        Much to its horror, the crew discovers Sergeant Randall buried alive, suffering undescribable cruelties, retaining nothing but the brutal remnants of war life. "Dragon, there's a dragon in the cave" was all that Randall could whisper. Well, where is the dragon? Where is its cave? The answers are however not forthcoming. Morgan, realising the helplessness of the situation, transcends to the role of a psychoanalyst and explores Randall's dispirited psyche to arrive at a "solution".

...The wind from the trigger blew my hair. Each time I wanted it to be the bullet that killed me, and every time I prayed to live just one more second...

        The dragon has multiple lives. It never accepts defeat and rejuvenates itself after every downslope. This is not an imaginary beast or a mythological symbol of power, but something that breathes flames of fire and hatred in our midst, blatently. It is hidden from vision, awaiting opportune moment to emerge and strike. Its effects are devastating, and never operate on a smaller scale. It is but a predator in the wildest form, posing serious threat to peaceful co-existence. We need more analytical and reflective works like Cover Fire to identify and slay such a dragon.

...There were limits to what you could do to a man, even in war. This was outside the limits of what humanity, the Geneva Convention and God had agreed upon...

        When taken at face value the book is an excellent, action-packed war thriller. If we weigh the plot and its treatment, however, the work is revealed as a penetrating examination of war and its consequences. In Cover Fire, Ms. Booth has succeeded in uncovering a seldom explored side of war—that which bears a haunting human face.