Cover Image: Burning Sky

Burning Sky

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Member Reviews

When you want your horror mixed up with your military action novel, the only place you need to go is into the Weston Ochse section of your bookshelf. Nobody does it quite as well as he does. 

Burning Sky is a nice break from the Seal Team books as this one is a good bit more psychedelic than those. It good effect, too.

Whenever I sit down to read an Ochse novel, I plan on being there for the duration as they move along at a fair clip and never really get bogged down with too much exposition. Good stuff.

Burning Sky is for anyone who likes bullets with their monsters and just a dap of mind messing around with.
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Like Jonathan Maberry's Joe Ledger series, Weston Ochse's Burning Sky refuses to be pigeon-holed into one genre. It's not just a military thriller. It's not straight horror. It blends these elements with a little bit of speculative/cosmic/weird fiction, leading the reader into truly frightening & engrossing territory. In the hands of others, this could be a complete disaster. Not so with Weston Ochse at the helm!
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Weston Ochse gives his readers a smooth reading experience with Burning Sky. It’s fast paced and action packed. In this novel, the author takes Sufi for an imaginative and fictional spin (pun intended).

I needed a while to get through prologue because the author introduces us to the team, consisting of 6 people, each with their own sign-call. One or two of them even have nicknames that are occasionally referred to during the course of the book. That makes it more than a dozen names introduced to readers. It’s totally understandable with the nature of the team. Sign-calls are a must and sometimes nicknames carry the knowledge that only the members of the team know. This shows how close the team members know each other.

The author includes real-life crime-fighting technology used by law enforcement agencies e.g. the ShotSpotter, which I think is pretty cool. This along with other descriptions including weaponry and ammo are the reasons I have no trouble at all believing the author used to be in the US special ops.

There is just one thing – I have a problem with the use of word ‘Haji’ in this book. In Burning Sky, it’s equated with ‘terrorist’ when it only means ‘a Muslim who has gone to Makkah in pilgrimage’. It’s something compulsory for Muslims (should their means (financial, physical etc) allow it) so a majority of Muslims are Hajis/Hajjahs by the time they reach retirement age. I get that it’s just a term that people like the characters in this book use but for readers who don’t know better, they’ll think that a Haji = a terrorist.
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I was familiar neither with Weston Ochse's work nor with military fiction before this book. I can't say I was disappointed.

My main criticism is that the book should have been trimmed down significantly. At 420 pages, even though I enjoyed it for the most part, it felt like it would never end. Not to mention that the ending was rather abrupt, even though other parts are stretched to hell and back, like the author just wanted to get it over and done with. I mean, true, other parts of the book were way "juicier" than the ending, but I do think it could have been more satisfying (for us and the characters) after that entire ordeal.

That said, I still enjoyed the book. I liked Boy Scout's talk with Rumi in Sefid the most, and I like that it kept me guessing at every turn. I still think it should have been trimmed down, though.
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I was curious to give this a look after reading "Multiplex Fandango." Some of the stories in that collection were genuinely creepy, even if the characters' tragic pasts started to wear thin as they cropped up again and again.

Unfortunately, "Burning Sky" *is* a story about characters with tortured tragic backstories, and they come off as alternately too earnest or too edgy as they pile on. This culminates in the main character reliving the events of 9/11 from the top of the World Trade Center, jumping to his death, and becoming the iconic Falling Man.

I'm not going to say you can't incorporate historical tragedies into genre fiction, but that's a big ask. And I don't think it works here. It's less offensive than it is embarrassing.

The plot itself skips all over the place, and while there is some retconning later on to give this approach context, it makes "Burning Sky" feel more like a web serial than a novel. More forgiving readers might appreciate the military horror mash-up and unusual villains, but this is a tonally discordant book. It's more likely to alienate than entertain, no matter what you're coming to it for.
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I have written before about my struggles with military sci-fi, and this one, at least on the presentation, appeared to be different.  And on one hand, it is - the approach to this story, especially with the characterizations in play, feel very different than with other efforts I've read or tried to read.  But what this didn't do is deliver beyond that - the take still felt stilted and sterile, and the ideas and conceits for me just failed to connect. 

This wasn't a bad read - many who love this subgenre are praising this effort.  For me, though, it just failed to connect.  That's more on me than anything on the book.
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"Burning Sky" by Weston Ochse is filled with blood, pop culture references, and more blood. Following a team of five, the first half of the book is them dealing with not being in the army anymore, in their own ways. Some chose drugs, some chose food, some chose both, and one chose tinfoil clothes and techno music. Then they're given something to focus on, brought on by their leader, Boy Scout. He consistently feels like he's a character in a book, however. They're trying to save a young boy and his mother. The story is told from Boy Scout's, or Bryan Starling's perspective. But something's wrong, the boys mother says that she knows him already and knows what he's going to do to them. How can she when Bryan doesn't even know what he's going to do himself?

The second half of this book is really what got me into it. It adds the supernatural twist I was hoping for, but honestly didn't really expect from the description. Don't get me wrong, the first half is action packed, but something was missing. Once you get to fifty percent, you realize what it is. I'm not going to tell you, because that would spoil the surprise, but just know if you feel the same as I do, you'll really like the book after half way. The world this book is set in is mostly like out own, but again, with a supernatural twist you don't expect.

The characters in this are part of a prestigious team in the army. They're all haunted by the same image, a girl with a goat on a leash, and they're determined to figure out why it's keeping them up at night. Only after meeting with a psychic do they really start to make any headway. After battling a war in Afghanistan for the last who knows how long, they need to go back to find out what's really going on, and not everyone is into that idea. Everything really starts to come together after that point, however. I think my favourite character was probably Boy Scout, because we got to see everything from his perspective. 

Overall this book was good, but not my new favourite. I really think there's a huge difference between what the book looks like on the outside, what the description describes it to be, and what it actually is. I think if you like books about army guys and girls killing things and battling their own problems as well as supernatural ones, you're going to like this. If you like books that change their entire being in the middle, you're going to like this. And if you like books that confuse you a little but in a good way, then this is the book for you. It's longer than the average book, but the writing is easy to follow and you can power through it pretty quickly if you're really into it.

Thanks for reading!
(Radioactivebookreviews.wordpress.com)
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I've heard a lot of good about Weston Ochse. I hadn't read any of his stuff previously, but I had already bought four of his books and put them in my To Be Read pile. So, it's no surprise that I was eager to read a book by him. Well ... weirdly the book both lived up to my expectations and yet left me disappointed.

Boy Scout, real name Bryan Starling, is in charge of an Tactical Support Team in Afghanistan. He and his team are escorting a General to a meeting when things go bad. Flash forward six months and Starling is dealing with some issues: overweight, out of shape, and working as a muscle for a small-time crook. He realizes that he has had enough and needs to face the problems he has been avoiding. And that's all I will say in order to avoid spoilers.

When I was reading the book, I powered through the first half in two, maybe three days. I was loving it. And then I hit the halfway point in the book where everything changes; once you get to that point, you'll know where I mean. For whatever reason, things quickly slowed down for me at that point. Maybe it was the new reality that I had to deal with. Maybe it was the tone switch of the book. Maybe it was just life keeping me busy with other things and distracted from the book. Whatever the reason was, it took me a while to get back into the book and finish it. The story and writing were both good. The characters were real and not cardboard cut-outs but at the same time, I stopped caring about them after that halfway point. I think that was due to the reality shift; subconsciously, and even consciously, I was waiting for another reality shift to occur and undo parts of the story. Don't get me wrong; I'm not claiming "foul". Ochse followed his own rules that he established in the book. And while the effect is very similar in tone to the movie From Dusk till Dawn, it does not have that "WTF?" craziness. The shift was still enough to make the reader re-evaluate the events of the story and, for me, that included re-evaluating the characters. I suppose I'm in a similar state to what I was before I read this book: I'm eager to read my next Weston Ochse but this time I'm eager to see which type of book I will get.
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I really enjoyed this one. Speant most of the book trying to figure out what the hell was actully going on which was part of the fun since neither I or the characters seemed to have a clue what was happening. The reveal was even werider then what I had been thinking about and that was even better as that sort of thing hadn't even crossed my mind and that made things even better.

The main characters were all enjoyable and none of them got really annoying which is always a good thing.  

Would recommend to people who like science fiction and/or militery fiction which is on the werid side of things.
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Bryan "Boy Scout" Starling and his TST, are not adapting well to civilian life having returned from Afghanistan and the whole team seem to be on a constant downwards spiral. All is not as it seems, as they find out they are trapped in an artificial environment. This is a good story with some nice twists, it does get a little bogged down in the latter third, but still a good conclusion.
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Burning Sky sets a new benchmark for military horror. Ochse lures readers in, and then slaps them upside their jaw with scintillating action and incredible thrills. Highly recommended.
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A unique premise with absolutely riveting action and diabolical intent.  Imagine how startling and frightening it would be to find out those people with whom you've shared an intense experience are all dreaming the exact same dream you are... not just a similar theme, but exact down to the details.  The story that unfolds is chilling, and I guarantee you'll find it hard to put this book down.  Excellent on all levels.
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"...man will always be victim to nature, whether it be nature itself, the nature of man, or the nature of war."

Possible slight spoiler alert:

Wellup, this was one LONG book. I finished it. Yes, I did, but now wish I'd stopped about the halfway point.

I like the way the story starts out. Bryan Starling "Boy Scout" heads up a tactical support team made up of men and women that are ex-military contracted now with the Department of Defense. They are in Afghanistan moving a General officer when the SHTF.

The team ends up back stateside and find that all members are not doing well. They are having the same dream and appear to have blank spots in their memories.

Okay - that's the good part of this book. The author writes about military life and action with great expertise. The members of the team are well developed especially Boy Scout.

But then the book heads into woo-woo land. I, for one, like monsters and horror. I don't appreciate (although some readers probably will) books full of woo-woo mysticism and spirituality. 

The author references BLOOD MERIDIAN by Cormac McCarthy a few times in the book and you can tell from the last half of the book. BLOOD MERIDIAN happens to be a book I have a love-hate relationship with and never plan on reading again. 

Some like this book a lot. I don't.

I received this book from Rebellion Publishing through Net Galley in the hopes that I would read it and leave an unbiased review.
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I don’t usually read military fiction but I’ve heard so much about Weston Ochse that I had to give it a try. Not sure what to think of this one. There are so many twists that is was kind of hard to keep up with the story. And the jumps in time or sideways or whatever,,.
But the action was good and enjoyable and there are many things that I learned about what it is like to serve in the military and what happens to soldiers after they return home. How they life can never be the same after all the suffering they saw.
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Burning Sky by Weston Oche was received direct from the publisher.  Weston Oche is one author that I don't see much of (not sure who’s fault that is), but when I do read his materials I do not remember ever being disappointed.  Further, being former military as well, those like me can quickly pick up when someone is “faking the funk,” with their military creds and Weston is legit.  As always, I will not go into plot, plenty of other reviewers do that.  If you like character development in a novel, this book has a lot of it.  To me, this means I skim through a lot because my attention span deems it necessary.  The monsters in this book are unlike anything you may have read before and that is always a good thing.  If you or someone you buy books for likes modern day war novels with a bit of horror thrown in, give this book a read.
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I'm still not sure how I feel about this one. The action was great. Enough action to satisfy anyone, but it felt like the narrative was forced into too much introspection in a couple of places. The plot twists were good but almost too many, if that makes sense. First, they blew up someone or something attacking them while escorting a dignitary, then.....
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[I was sent an ARC by the publisher, via Netgalley, in return for a fair and honest review]

I have never served in the military, and it seems increasingly unlikely that I ever will given my advancing age, advancing stomach size, and an variety of fears that can probably be encompassed under the general term of ‘intense cowardice’. Only being a civilian, therefore, I’m extremely aware that I can only have the vaguest notions of what it is like to serve in the armed forces: the experiences to be had in visiting countries overseas and becoming immersed in different creeds and cultures; the horrific and unpredictable effects of being in combat; and, perhaps above all others, the fundamental nature of the intense camaraderie that forms between soldiers serving together in a unit, a brotherhood (and, increasingly, sisterhood) that is formed through sweating and bleeding and fighting together. As a result of this, there is a fundamental gulf – a social and cultural disconnect – between civilians and veterans, and there are relatively few ways that this can be bridged by veterans in an attempt to communicate their experiences to the rest of society.

The written word is one of those bridges, and active and former soldiers have written books for millennia in an attempt to convey their world view, a tradition that carries on to this day: one need only wander into any bookstore, new or second-hand, to see row upon row of books by veterans of conflicts, particularly modern-day ones like Iraq and Afghanistan. However, I hope that it is not too controversial a point to highlight that not all of these books are actually good – that while they attempt to convey a viewpoint, many are not really that well-written or engaging, often despite the assistance of ghost-writers or editors. As such, it is always something to celebrate when you come across a piece of military fiction that has been written by a veteran or serving soldier who is also skilled as a writer. The latest example that I have come across is Burning Sky by Weston Ochse, an author that I’d been aware of previously, but never quite had the time to pick up any works that he had written. However, when Netgalley advertised that Mr Ochse had a new title out, which was categorised under ‘military horror’, I knew that I had to request an advanced review copy in order to read and then review it.

The story of Burning Sky intrigued me, telling the tale of a group of former US Army veterans who have become private contractors – a Tactical Support Team in modern parlance – and returned to the Middle East in order to earn more money and try and change their fortunes for the better after being scarred – physically and mentally – by years of combat abroad.  But when a supposedly simple mission – escorting a general officer on an ‘off the books’ mission deep into Afghanistan – goes terribly wrong, the TST return home to the United States only to find themselves plagued by problems that go much further than the physical and mental toll that comes with being a veteran. A horrific shared dream haunts them whenever they sleep, and team leader Bryan Starling – nicknamed Boy Scout – finds that complete strangers seem to know him intimately, and claim that he has met them before, and often done terrible things to them that he knows with utter certainty have never occurred. It’s an interesting idea that immediately hooked me from the very first page, and before long I had been drawn into the pages of a tense, atmospheric and action-packed military thriller that slowly but surely morphs into a novel of cosmic horror.

When I started to read Burning Sky I assumed that I would be looking at a fairly ‘conventional’ horror novel with a military theme – perhaps some kind of ‘creature feature’ that saw the TST members hunt down some occult or extra-terrestrial threat in the deserts of Afghanistan. But as I read on, it rapidly became clear that although there were elements of this, it was actually so much more than the sort of pot-boiler that often litters the genres. Instead, what Mr Ochse offers up is an open and starkly honest portrayal of the mental and physical costs of fighting in a modern conflict, which in turn becomes subtly integrated with elements of cosmic and body horror as time goes on. Boy Scout and the rest of his team have been scarred, and even broken, by what they have seen and endured in the Middle East, and there’s some absolutely first-rate characterisation as Ochse introduces each member of the TST to the reader and highlights how they have reacted to coming back to home soil, managing to deftly maintain the balance between not sanitising the effects of the war and also not falling into stereotypes and tropes. To take just one example, Boy Scout has become a problematic alcoholic upon his return, and fallen into a distinctly violent and disreputable job, but Ochse readily generates sympathy for him without belabouring the point. Each of the characters in Burning Sky is fully fleshed out and realised, and none can be described as two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs. Even when, later on in the novel, characters native to Afghanistan are introduced, they remain interesting and even vibrant personalities that have obviously had thought put into them by the author.

Excellent characterisation is allied with some brilliant writing, and a plot that moves along at a steady pace, tension and atmosphere rife; but just when you think you have a handle on the book, Mr Ochse introduces those horror elements into the mix and hurls you into an increasingly taut and unsettling plot. People that Boy Scout see begin to have static-filled, glowing faces that are genuinely disturbing in the way that Ochse describes them, and you can almost physically feel the character’s reality begin to distort as they try and figure out why things are happening to them. Indeed, one of the main themes of Burning Sky seems to be the nature of reality for a veteran, and how a universe already frayed by the costs of combat and other human-made horrors can be far too easily snapped entirely by the introduction of occult elements.

It’s rather difficult to try and discuss the latter half of the novel without introducing massive spoilers to anyone reading this review, so I’ll have to try and talk in generalities. However, the nature of the enemy that the members of the TST discover is both fresh and engaging, and Ochse expertly blends together Western military expertise with Middle Eastern mythology and cultural details to create a unique backdrop to the novel when the TST return to where it all began for them. By the half-way mark, the plot has begun to twist and turn until it has worked itself into non-Euclidean shapes, and such is Ochse’s skill as a writer that even I as the reader became suspicious of everything that the characters were encountering, sharing in their paranoia about the nature of their reality and what level they were truly operating on. Truth in Burning Sky becomes an entirely subjective and worryingly malleable thing, and there are layers to the plot that means careful re-reading is needed to draw out all of the subtle implications and themes that Ochse has seeded the book with.

Burning Sky is a fantastic novel that I enjoyed every minute of reading – engagingly written, sharply plotted and laced with both cosmic horrors and the entirely human-made horrors of modern war. I firmly believe that it represents the pinnacle of the military horror genre, and will be difficult, if not impossible, to surpass.
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