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Who the Hell Are You Simon Smith by Ted Schipper (BOOK REVIEW) 1/5 DNF

My first and likely last DNF of 2021, I have conflicted feelings about “Who the Hell Are You Simon Smith”. I wanted to like this novel, equating espionage- a subject and genre I rarely touch- to be similar to thrillers or adventures, something I read often. However, I found myself sorely disappointed. I have great respect for the author, whom I know personally, but this novel was not for me. While it has high reviews from others- I truly struggled with it, and eventually decided to put it down for good.

This book, for me, was extremely offputting. When I read, I want to like the main character, to empathize with them, and that wasn’t the case here. I was met with an arrogant, chauvinistic main character who had a hero complex. Within the first eighty pages, which was as far as I read, I was met with a man who liked to hear the sound of his own voice. The first chapter alone was extremely uncomfortable for me, met with 9/11 and the blunt, brute force opinion of Simon Smith that the world’s tragedy should have stopped so he could finish a business meeting, along with several other remarks that left me reeling- such as going to a bar and getting free drinks as “a survivor” and many notes of wanting beautiful women. This continued, my least favorite of the encounters being during encounters with his wife: Who he fully admits to marrying for her looks, and whose courtship was utterly unappealing to me as a woman. I would never have thought such a way of getting a wife would work- but hey, it’s fiction. Still, I found Simon Smith to be rather heartlessly written, more into himself than anyone else. The storytelling often felt clumsy, and offensive.

This dislikable main character may have been salvageable, if the story had caught my attention- but it simply didn’t. Most of it was dry, military writing, too stiff and formal for me to get into because I had nothing to relate it to. It’s not my usual read, and I couldn’t get into it, too boring to keep me interested- and too unlikable to make me want to stick around to find out what happened to the titular character.

I feel like this book could have been written more relatably, but there were some deep personality flaws that made me grit my teeth, eventually unable to continue. Along with some unfortunate editing flaws I spotted, my score just began to drop further, and when I decided not to continue, it left me with a 1/5 score. Some people really loved this book, and I wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading it if the genre is something they like, but it wasn’t for me.

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