Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The Coming of the Dawn - A.K. Silk

Title: The Coming of the Dawn
Author: A.K. Silk
ISBN: 978-1-927-53335-2
Pages: 246

This book represents the author's first foray into the world of fiction. A lifelong passion for history and the centenary of the beginning of the First World War has led to his drafting of this novel of squadron life and death in 1918. His story focusses upon Patrick Dyson, a 2Lt transferring from the infantry into the Royal Flying Corps, as he struggles with the morality of combat, post traumatic stress (known then as shell shock), personal loss and the day to day interactions with his fellow squadron mates. 

Fiction serves as an excellent medium for the passage of lessons and the investigation of the human condition in times of extreme dislocation and stress. The author is able to create for the reader the atmosphere of the environment and experience required to convey the what, why and how of what would be, for the vast majority of us, circumstances that may only be understood in the abstract.

Silk has done a commendable job at creating a storyline that maintains pace and tension. The reader appreciates the struggle that Dyson and his fellow aircrew endure as they grapple with the daily terror of not only combat (and the prospect of burning to death or horrible injury) but also the potential of being viewed as a coward and ostracized by their peers and countrymen should they not meet the criteria of conduct expected by their comrades.

Silk's narrative reveals a deep period knowledge that shows that he has done his research about his subject, thereby adding both a depth of realism to his storyline and education for his readers. I was particularly struck by his description of Dyson's struggles with his own fear of combat and failure as he endures his introduction to aerial combat. One comes away appreciating what it took for these young men to undertake their missions in the full knowledge of what potentially lay ahead for them. 

Without a doubt. a strength in any novel is the ability of the author to surprise the reader with plot twists and turns. The Coming of the Dawn does not disappoint in this regard as Silk ensures a number of concurrent story lines intersect such that they keep the reader guessing. Aerial combat is interwoven with the apparent contradiction of social interaction with the enemy and the critical need for acceptance of the combatants by their peers.

This is a book worth reading. It represents a solid and worthy introduction of Silk into the genre of aerial fiction. For those who have enjoyed Spencer Dunmore and Derek Robinson as authors, Silk will not disappoint.  

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