Adria Carmichael is the author of the highly addictive Juche series of dystopian novels set in the totalitarian nation of Choson, a very realistic fictional portrayal of North Korea. She has completed the first three books, which are currently available on Amazon, and is working on the fourth in the series.
Having grown up with movies and TV series about the war in Vietnam from a US perspective, it was truly enlightening to read a book on this topic from another perspective, written by a South Vietnamese native who himself had to flee to America when his country was invaded by the north.
The book is part love story in the midst of a devastating war, and part history book with detailed accounts of the two-month long siege of the small, but strategically important city of An Loc. For me, it was the stories about the people fighting for their lives and freedom that captivated my interest, and I have to admit that I skimmed though some of the lengthier descriptions of military events that were not directly connected to the main story. The characters were fantastic though, and I followed their struggles and development with great interest.
Love was at the heart of the story, and I liked that the book kept me rooting for the sweet but fragile romance between the protagonists Trung and Ly that started so innocently in a restaurant in Saigon and then continued down into the muddy trenches of An Loc under the constant enemy bombardment that gradually turned the city into dusty piles of rubble.
Another aspect that fascinated me was the contrast between the self-image of the northern army and the view of the people of the south. While the north portrayed themselves as “liberators” coming to the south to free their brothers and sisters from the evil puppet regime that was holding them in its clutches, the South Vietnamese saw them as nothing other than an invading army whose only interest was to subjugate them, and not minding to kill hundreds of thousands of people in the process. The contrast became abundantly clear when the author let us follow North Vietnamese soldiers who entered An Loc expecting to be met by cheering masses of people greeting their liberators with flowers and praise, but found nothing but petrified people fleeing for their lives at the sight of them. Very well portrayed.
At the very end of the book (and this is not a spoiler for this story) I must admit I was very surprised by a sentence saying that the protagonists will face even greater hardships three years later… and then the book ended. This statement made me incredibly curious and made me to wonder if there is a sequel on the horizon.