Roberto to the Dark Tower Came by Tom Epperson

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“In ten days, Roberto. You must leave the country. Or else you will die.”

The book opens up with Roberto waking up in the middle of the night to receive a death threat on the phone, and the narrative counts down each day before the unknown man’s deadline. Roberto to the Dark Tower Came is overall a powerful novel about a young journalist in an unnamed South American country fighting for the truth in a region that journalists – and other subversives – are routinely murdered for doing their jobs.

“The fact that someone wants to kill you for doing your job should make you realize how important that job is.”

I am going to admit that I am a bit conflicted about this book. It started incredibly strong and hooked me from the opening lines, but the subsequent few days (nine, eight, and seven) dragged for me and I struggled to continue… but my desire to see what happened kept me going (and I am so glad I stuck with it!). I understand that it was important to Roberto’s life to wrap things up, and to reminisce about the past, but I found the pacing to be a little slower than I would have liked. Despite the considerable amount of time in the first 40% of the book dedicated to the people in his life, barring Roberto, Daniel, and Lina the characters fell flat for me; however, the connection that I felt for those three characters was deep.

Despite the slow beginning, things really picked up around 40% in (six days before the deadline). For me this book was more about Roberto’s adventure to uncover and expose the truth, it is less of a mystery/thriller. If I were to give this book a rating at 30% it would have been maybe 2.5 stars, but it is easily a 4 star ending for me. I think that many people will appreciate the buildup and character building, but for me I wanted the action to come faster!

There are interesting parallels with terrorism and the fear of terrorism being used as a means of gaining control or excusing governmental acts of force that most certainly apply in the modern climate, and the media is used to spread this message to tamper outrage. I think that is why I felt a disconnect: it felt too real but not actually discussing real events. I don’t generally hold fiction up to a “reality” standard, but this almost read like nonfiction to me. It is likely that Epperson didn’t name the country on purpose so that it isn’t rooted so much in modern historical events, but I found it a bit distracting personally to have the narrator refer to “my country” and “my city” constantly. Regions mentioned were in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru – all countries which I have traveled to, which is probably why I was trying to pick it apart! My best guess is that Roberto is based in Colombia, and the strife depicted is a fictionalization of the FARC conflict.

Overall this is a good read, and I think those interested in political adult fiction will enjoy this one.

cw: animal abuse, rape, murder, war

★★★✬☆

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Meerket Press, for providing me a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. Quotations were taken from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change upon publication. You can find information about my rating criteria here


What about you? Have you read this book yet?


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