Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Oct 2019

Member Reviews

Colombiano is a terrific book for both general readers and motivated young adults. In Pedro, Young has created a sympathetic, complex, and realistic adolescent narrator. Clearly, the author's experience lends considerable authority to his story's historical and social context, and as a writer he sustains riveted interest at near-epic length. Among the many things I loved about the book were its attention to both the inner and outer details of a child soldier's life; its balance in presenting the turmoil of civil war; its echoes of classical literature like Antigone and The Odyssey;  and it's touches of humor amidst the horror. Young does a very nice job honoring young love (and lust), as well. HIGHLY recommended!
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A riveting saga set in Colombia depicting the the brutal conflict between the guerrillas and the Autodefensas - illegal paramilitary, with the mostly helpless and hapless government army making guest appearances every so often. Fifteen-year-old Pedro Gutierrez grows up overnight when his father is mercilessly gunned down in front of him leaving him and his mother to fend for themselves. He vows revenge against the men who ordered the killing and joins the Autodefensas to begin his voyage into the violence and ruthlessness he’s determined to master with singular focus - avenge his father’s death and more. Along the way we experience what life was like in Colombia during the decades of violence, drug trafficking, and lost childhoods. Despite its length, the novel clips through at a steady pace creating the space for character growth and development - Pedro is conflicted at times, there are tough decisions to be grappled with, and yes, tough killings to be made. But this novel is about more... It’s about friendship, love, moral dilemma. It's about what the human being can inflict upon one another. It's about what the human being can endure. It’s about what the human being can overcome. A great read and would highly recommend it. Thanks to Havelock & Baker Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review Colombiano. Time well invested!
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I enjoyed Marching Powder by the same author so I was looking forward to reading the author's second book.  The story is good but does not really move fast enough for me.  The characters are believable and the situations they find themselves in are described very vividly; the story moves along but seems to take a long time to get there. Overall I would have preferred if the pace of the story was a good bit faster.
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"Its strange to think that a quick decision taken in the heat of a single moment could change the course of a boys life".

And that one quote sums up 700 pages of text.

This is the story for Pedro and his friends, all teenagers, all for various reasons are tangled up in war funded by cocaine, criminals and the corrupt. This is the story of how ruthless human beings can be. 

I haven't read much on Colombia and from the first chapter I was pulled in, this book is so readable the words flow as easily as the Colombian rivers mentioned. As someone who doesn't mind reading a bit of gore I had to put this book down on many occasions due to the graphic content, maybe because it's based on true stories, maybe because its teenagers or maybe because it's so damn real I felt I was there. 

This book made me think of all the wars going on today, all the children being trained as fighters, the corruption, the blind eyes. 

I felt a lot of things reading this book but not the 700 pages. This book is a journey that deserves every star available.
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In the interests of transparency, I was approached by Havelock & Baker Publishing to provide a review of this book. However, all the opinions I express are genuine and my own. 

I had never heard of Rusty Young before being approached to read this book, but now he is an author I will be keeping an eye out for! 

Colombiano is a wonderful fact based fiction account of ‘Pedro’ a child solider from Columbia. From the very beginning you get caught up in Pedro’s world, you feel the bonds of friendship he makes, the love he feels as well as the pain. You can understand what drove these young people to join these warring factions...and you can see how these organisations recruited and preyed on them at a time they were looking for direction most. 

I have not been able to put this book down, I wanted to know what happened and didn’t want the book to end in equal measure. It takes a skilled author to weave what must have been at times harrowing accounts into a sensitive and compelling fiction that still conveys that despite moving in an adult world most of us will never experience, they were still just teenagers. 

Please read this book. I really don’t think you’ll regret it.
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An important subject but this didn't work for me as a novel. It reads more like long-form journalism than the voice of a traumatised young man and the emotions of the characters feel quite simplistic. DNF
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What an amazing read! I wasn't sure I could like it more than I did Marching Powder, also by Rusty Young - but I was wrong, I liked it more! The main character, Pedro, gave so much insight into life in Colombia during one of its harshest times, but in a way that inspired laughter and love through darkness and pain. And just when you start to dislike one of his comrades, something occurs to make you either like or respect them again, but then later realizing you were right the first time. It goes to show that this was real life and not some Hollywood vision of what would make a good story. These people are dynamic and caring and conniving and selfish and real - and that's what makes this story one I didn't want to put down. I really hope Rusty Young writes another, the world needs more of his stories!
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This is a story about Pedro, living in a little town of Colombia. Hard to imagine others suffering and struggling just to live day to day, while I'm home in my comfortable house. This book brought to life what it's like to live in communist country, where a person has no rights and lives in fear. I couldn't put this book down.
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The author, well known for his first book Marching Powder, telling to story of an inmate in Bolivia's San Pedro jail, has since spent eight years in Colombia. He worked under cover for the US Government in counter terrorism, interviewing a wide range of people from soldiers and hostages, to those displaced by the fighting. According to the author, the most heartwrenching stories were those of the child soldiers recruited by the two main terrorist organisations - FARC and Autodefensas.

This is a violent, cruel storyline, and the author states it is a work of fiction which is based on the true story of an ex-child soldier. In the authors own words: "Some parts of this story are real. Most are fictionalised and informed by my own experiences and historical research. These children's pasts were complicated and painful. Their stories affected me deeply and changed my life. I felt they needed to be told." It is reasonable to assume the author based his story on an amalgamation of different peoples stories, and he was right to be upfront about the fictional nature. It allows the reader to forgive some of the more dramatic aspects.

Despite being almost 700 pages long, this is still a fast moving, high octane story. Set in Colombia after the removal of Pablo Escobar, it revolves around the civic unrest, corruption where money controls the situation, the cocaine trade and the guerilla insurgents fighting the military and the police, and a private militia. But more it is the impact of this on families and loved ones of the soldiers.

The story is told in the first person, from the perspective of our protagonist, Pedro, who at the start of the book is 15 years old, and is forced to watch his father executed by the guerillas. If this sounds a little too violent for you, chances are you won't get through more than 20 pages before determining this isn't for you. While naive, and easily influenced, Pedro is a character is is easy to sympathise with, aching for his revenge on those who murdered his father, his path is not straight forward.

The story is captivating. It twists and turns, doesn't fail to deliver surprises, and of course revels in revenge and the violence of the life of a paramilitary.

Five stars for fiction is pretty rare for me, but so is cracking through a 700 page book in 4 days, and enjoying it from cover to cover.


Many thanks to Havelock & Baker Publishing for a copy provided in return for a review.
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Rusty Young did a wonderful job capturing my attention in this riveting novel.
Colombiano is a novel based on the real-life experiences of child soldiers in Colombia.
15-year-old Pedro, along with his best friend Paillo introduces us to the lives of Paramilitaries, Guerilla and the Colombian Army.
It's amazing to think of the people who survived such terror daily for so long.
I was rooting for Pedro through the good and the bad.
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For Every Alpha There is a Beta: 

Colombiano not only brings the reader home to the villages in conflict in an emerging middle power country; but it gives you your own cedula (id card) to view that guerrilla warfare through personal relationships. In this coming-of-age story, you see every aspect of the political climate in Colombia on the cusp of the twenty-first century.

Rusty Young turns the concept of war child on end in this immersive and unforgettable novel. Words often have little meaning assigned to them, when alone: Colombia, drug, war, child. But, take any two words and pair them together and you create a concept: drug war, war child. The author takes us deep within the world of the child guerrilla in Colombia, allowing us to see a different side of the war child experience.

After the frame story that begins the book, you begin to hear the story of the Colombiano himself; a young boy of fifteen who witnesses his father’s brutal murder at the hands of FARC guerrillas. He and his mother are banished from their farm, but he defies the order to leave his father unburied. Riddled with self-blame and anger, and a fugitive from men who are killers; he joins a group of anti-insurgents with his best friend to seek ‘justice’ in fighting the guerrillas. From there, the reader follows him over two and a half years from the dark quest for revenge to the light at the end of the tunnel of grief.

    "Field by field, farm by farm, person by person, we were wresting the country back from the Guerrilla’s clutches."

Here you will drag your ideological feet across that grey line between good and evil, testing how far your principles will bend. And, you see the results of crossing that line. While eradicating a community of guerrillas is emotional and satisfying, the price paid for that victory is steep and draining. Young brings to the forefront the ideas of a government’s responsibility to provide infrastructure and safety to its people, and reveals what happens when those tasks are relegated to either local businesses or independent patriot military groups.

As far as mechanics of plot go, I particularly liked the way voice identification was used in military strategy. The tech used was legitimate for that era in Colombia. Character development was rich and deeply satisfying. I found myself laughing and crying with them. Many characters will embed themselves into your heart and remain with you long after you read the last page. The main character begins to see the difference between justice and revenge through the actions of the alpha commander and the beta commander. He is influenced by the morals of his faith, his family, and his friends. He is sustained by his love and respect for his lost father and a desire to return home when all is right in his world. And, he struggles between destroying the men who murdered his father and becoming them.

I also liked that the book was not gratuitously gory or violent. While it is suitable for adults, rather than children because of the realism in guerrilla warfare, it maintains a balance between what can be said and what is necessary for plot. And, some of the worst moments are not witnessed directly by the teenage character, because his superiors keep him at arms-length to permit themselves more barbarity than they know he will be prepared to handle. And, that makes the story more authentic, because it allows the author full license to delve into the psychological faith these children have in a political ideology. The Colombiano believes in what he is doing. He believes he is on the side of justice.

I was given the Kindle format of this book free for review purposes. All my reviews are sincere, and I am selective about the offers I accept. But, I was thrilled to discover this beautiful novel. It is off the path of my Journey Around the World in 80 Books for 2019, but I was so anxious to read it, I sailed from Sudan through the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and the Gulf for this side trip to Colombia. (I will soon be back on track for Chad though, so wait for it.)

To compare this book to similar books I have read, see the following reviews. Hostage Nation is a macro view of the drug wars in general. Out of Captivity goes deep into the jungles with three hostages, allowing a glimpse of life for government contactors. Even Silence Has an End is also a personal memoir of a hostage, but she is a politician and a writer, and takes you deep into her own soul, allowing you to follow her escape attempts and her inner struggles.

Hostage Nation: Colombia's Guerrilla Army and the Failed War on Drugs by Victoria Bruce 

Out of Captivity: Surviving 1,967 Days in the Colombian Jungle by Marc Gonsalves>

Even Silence Has an End by Ingrid Betancourt  

Colombiano takes on all these tasks in one book. It is at once down-to-earth and soaring in intensity. It is not a quick read. It not only leaves me longing for the film version, but would easily contain a sequel. I read several chapters each day, for a few days. But, once I reached the first quarter of the book, I read almost nonstop through the Memorial Day weekend. It is difficult to put down once you get into it, so plan accordingly.
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This book is incredibly thick and took a long time to read; and was worth every second. This incredible story, steeped in fact, is engaging, exhilarating and heart wrenching. The characters are defined, realistic and believable, as are the circumstances of their lives and situations. To be able to immerse ourselves in what happens to these kids in countries where terrorist groups abound and are as well known as the locals is amazing and important. This “true story”, which reads like a novel, is timely, smart and a must read!
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A powerfully moving story of a Colombian child-warrior in a narrative that exposes the far left vs far right revolution; the abuses, cocaine trafficking, corruption and tragedies of that terrible period. Based on real events, he reveals how his lack of discipline and temper caused the lives of many innocent lives and the loss of his own innocence. Perhaps somewhat too long, and hampered by a tendency to end chapters with a phrase like "I'd soon learn the cost of my mistake", but readable and absorbing to the last page.
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I went into this read wanting to savor each word and not miss anything because I remembered how good his first book, 'Marching Powder',had been and I was feeling optimistic that this book would be just as good or better. Rusty Young DID NOT disappoint me! (Giving a standing ovation clap). The drama and appeal began immediately from the prologue with its' glimpse into how the book came to be and straight away into the first chapter! He captured this countrys' misguided zeal for political war in a clear, concise, matter of fact way. As the reader I was able to experiencethe reality of political war and its' 'cause and effect'. I couldn't pick a side. I could only watch from the sidelines through my readers lens...indeed a very powerful book. Kudos to you, Sir once again! Your book was nothing short of amazing! Thank you!
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Sorry for the delay in reviewing.  A family health emergency has short-circuited my normal reading habits.  This is a very good story if you are into the narco, cartel, and life in underdeveloped countries.  It takes you through the life of a young man, his joining the auto-defense and his rise in the ranks, and his eventual leaving.  It gets a bit graphic at times, and very cold hearted for a lot of the book.  What is the most amazing thing to me is that most of the main characters are kids!  Kids who should be getting ready for their junior proms, rather than preparing and going to battle.  You forget about that as your reading and then something pops up to remind you and you think "These are just children".

Highly recommend.
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I must admit, when the publishers asked me to read & give an honest review on this book I had my reservations. Rusty Young's first book is my all time book to recommend so I was worried that my pre conception of 'it's not going to be any where near as good' would ruin the read.

HOW WRONG I WAS! Now don't get me wrong, nothing will beat Marching Powder but this book has me sucked in from the first chapter. 

Each characters stories were so well written, whether they were a main character or just a small part, you felt entrapped in their lives, their struggles, their grief.

Pedro & Paillio have the most amazing friendship built on such a solid foundation that you grow with every step of their journey. 

The horrors that are depicted throughout felt so real I was actually gasping at points and I'm not ashamed to admit I had years rolling down my cheeks quite a few times.I

I've never been one to pick up a book that tells a story of war or anything military but I am so pleased I have this a chance. 

Amazingly written, well thought out, gripping, heartfelt & emotionally captivating. 

Massive thumbs up to Rusty Young... You've done it again!
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I wont go into detail about the story as i dont want to spoil the book, i see so many reviews that give 80% of the story away and it spoils it for the reader in my opinion. I loved this book, I enjoyed the story and i felt connected with the characters. One of my favourite books this year in fact. The story was a real page Turner and infact my other half kept needing to tell me to put it down and go to sleep, I was gripped. Pleaseantly surprised and brilliantly written, a must read for sure.
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Wow! This is a huge book,  but don’t be put off. The sheer knowledge Young has and the time spent in the region shows. Well planned and well thought out, I imagine this is based on many of the people he met and their stories, we follow Pedro through his journey to become a child soldier, the senseless violence and trauma the citizens have to endure. A brutal novel, well worth reading.
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Rusty Young began his research for a non-fiction book about child soldiers but after interviewing a few he found that a better avenue would be to create a work of fiction weaving together the stories into a tale of one young boy Pedro. Pedro's life is changed when his father is murdered in front of him by Guerrilla's who refuse to let him move or bury the body.  In fact the whole town refuses to help Pedro so he swears revenge, joining an illegal paramilitary group to help him exact revenge of the men who were responsible. 

This is a long book but it is an interesting, and compelling read. Pedro is relateable and sympathetic as a character and if even a 10th of this book is real it is devastating. Colombian politics have always been unsettling but this really puts it in perspective.  Each side saying they are fighting for the people and that the other faction is "bad" and the death toll mounts and the violence continues. The people stuck between all of this just keep trying to live their lives but sometimes not taking a side isn't as easy as you would think. 

When I thought of child soldiers I always think of those in Africa, stolen and drugged, forced to fight for whatever side abducted them but this is not that story.  Here you are recruited, lured with promises of money and power.  But what may have started out as a way to exact revenge or become more powerful quickly turns into a reality of violence, blind obedience and/or death. 

Well researched, well written and easy to read Colombiano is worth the time needed due to its length.
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A powerful novel, set in Colombia, reliving the conflict of army vs guerilla vs drug lords, etc. You get the drift. It follows two and a half years of the life of child soldier Pedro, who is forced to watch the murder of his father at the hands of guerillas on his family farm, then, wracked with guilt, he enlists with terrorist organisation the Autodefencas to fight the guerillas when he is only fifteen.

We follow Pedro and his best friend Palillo as they go through their training, and start to rise up the ranks of the organisation. We go on missions, watch with them in terror as they and their friends go through a living hell, we laugh, cry and love with these soldiers, often forgetting that they are only kids, as they are forced to grow up far too fast in a harsh regime.

This is a hard book to put down, yet it is far from an easy read. Well researched and terrifyingly realistic, author Rusty Young has based his novel on the real stories of child soldiers he has met in Colombia. It's definitely not a book for a single sitting, the kindle edition clocking in at over 800 pages, but the time goes quickly as you find yourself totally absorbed in Pedro's story. It is a true eye-opener about current affairs we never truly appreciate are happening in our world. Highly recommended.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher Havelock And Baker for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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