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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Seymour classic
The Unknown Soldier is the latest in a long line of polished and highly intelligent thrillers from Gerald Seymour. This is one of the most topical, dealing with the ongoing threat from Al Qaeda and portrays both the terrorists and those hunting them in a far more personal and insightful manner than most authors are capable of. Seymour’s objective description of the...
Published on 15 Mar. 2004

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "Ambiguous" or "Shaggy Dog"? You decide...
I would never have even picked up this book under normal circumstances, but a friend recently found himself in a foreign hospital for a while, and from their very limited library of English-language books read this and recommended it to me on his return... and I'm frankly sorry he did, because this is really just a very (very!) long shaggy dog story (minor spoilers...
Published on 5 Sept. 2008 by Alec Tronn


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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Seymour classic, 15 Mar. 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Unknown Soldier (Hardcover)
The Unknown Soldier is the latest in a long line of polished and highly intelligent thrillers from Gerald Seymour. This is one of the most topical, dealing with the ongoing threat from Al Qaeda and portrays both the terrorists and those hunting them in a far more personal and insightful manner than most authors are capable of. Seymour’s objective description of the bombing campaign in Afghanistan and the conditions which exist in Guantanamo Bay are also a welcome relief from the biased, flag waving and generally ill informed writings of other western authors.
Exciting as the storyline is, the main strength of this book lies in the development of its characters. In contrast to other authors who choose the easy and simplistic option of having perfect, unblemished heroes battling fundamentally evil villains, Seymour’s characters are far more complex and realistic, depicting the ordinary and fallible human beings who lie behind the headlines in the real world, where characters like James Bond, or Jack Ryan for that matter, are about as far from reality as you are liable to get.
The only question mark I would place over this book is its very ambiguous ending which seems to suggest a sequel may be in the offing. If so, it should be one to look forward to.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "Ambiguous" or "Shaggy Dog"? You decide..., 5 Sept. 2008
This review is from: The Unknown Soldier (Hardcover)
I would never have even picked up this book under normal circumstances, but a friend recently found himself in a foreign hospital for a while, and from their very limited library of English-language books read this and recommended it to me on his return... and I'm frankly sorry he did, because this is really just a very (very!) long shaggy dog story (minor spoilers follow.)

"Torn from today's headlines" it may be, but this is a tale driven by coincidence and ridiculous character motivations (it's the first book I've read in a long while that uses the notion of "love at first sight" with no irony whatsoever to trigger a huge plot shift.)

I'd have been far more interested in a whole novel based on the efforts of the UK and US agents travelling the UK to identify the terrorist, but sadly this was sidelined into a minor subplot, which in the end didn't even impact on the main story. Seymour can clearly write, but the story structure (is he paid by the word?) and characterisations could have done with a lot of editing, and the annoyingly inconclusive ending (sequel-friendly as it is) compounds the bad impression... no more for me I'm afraid!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Seymour gets arty?, 1 Sept. 2004
This review is from: The Unknown Soldier (Hardcover)
Normally with Gerald Seymour you get a past-paced linear thriller. With "the unknown soldier" you get something quite different. I'd go as far as to say that its the first TRULY authentic post-9/11 thriller. It ties together half a dozen disparate threads and weaves them into one coherent story. This includes-
-A British born Al Queda terrorist crossing the "empty quarter" of Saudi Arabia by camal to rejoin his masters after being released from Camp Delta (Guantanimo bay)
-Two american technicians operating Predator drones to hunt terrorists near the Yemeni border
-A washed up british doctor scarred from working in Hebron now blackmailed into pasisng low grade intelligence to MI6.
-A young american female geologist hunting for meteorites in the desert.
-An American CIA agent working in Cuba interogating prisoners trying to identify "the unknown soldier" as he crosses the sand.
This technique SHOULD be interesting & done well can keep you turning the pages. Unfortunately there was too much flashback & too many fillers to keep you hooked... I hate to say it but this book bored me until the last 50 pages or so when everything came together. Ultimately I think it lacked plot, so therefore had little suspense. None of the characters were likeable.. the terrorist was so "mysterious" that I couldn't relate to him & the americans were so unpleasant and brutal that they seemed little better than terrorists themselves.
The story was accurate & does describe the problems & conflicts encountered as Al Queda are hunted down, but Gerald Seymour can normally do far better than this. I'd recommed it for a long journey when you can give it your undivided attention. Reading a dozen pages a night will prove tedious though.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An appointment with immortal fame, 25 May 2008
By 
R. Nicholson-morton "Nik Morton" (Alicante, Spain) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Unknown Soldier (Hardcover)
This is Seymour's twenty-second thriller and it's up there with his best, though my favourite is still Archangel, a moving story about a man's doomed yet glorious fight against the authorities in a Russian Gulag.

As ever, Seymour is up-to-date with the world's headlines. The story begins in Afghanistan while various followers of Al Qaeda are being `mopped-up'. There's an interesting mix of characters whose lives are going to converge - and every one of them is believable, as are the subordinate characters, whether Arab, Israeli or American; a sure sign of thriller-writing of the highest order.

Caleb seems to have denied any past beyond two years ago. He survives an American ambush and is shipped off to Guantanamo Bay for processing; yet he doesn't seem to be a terrorist and after many months of interrogation he's returned to Afghanistan. Marty and Lizzy-Jo are two young Agency whizz-kids who fly the unmanned spy-planes, the Predators; they're being shipped out to Saudi Arabia.
Here already is Beth Jenkins, a school-teacher and amateur meteorologist and Bart, a doctor with a distinctly shady past, who happens to be one of several spies garnering any titbits for Eddie Wroughton, the Saudi MI6 man.
Back in London is Lovejoy, an old spy, who sits through briefings to understand the psychology of today's terrorists: the men Al Qaeda want to recruit for their dirty work are not loners, they want men who are tough, persistent, determined and bright.

Jed Dietrich is an interrogator in Guantanamo; while he was on vacation, Agency know-alls let Caleb go. On his return, he managed to unmask Caleb as a liar - too late, the man had beaten them all. The manhunt was on for someone wily enough to bide his time and beat the interrogators. Someone Al Qaeda would like to use, probably as a mule to deliver a lethal package to any city in the West.

The manhunt leads to the Empty Quarter - sand dunes and shallow mountains that cover a quarter of a million square miles of emptiness. And through the fire of the sun's unrelenting heat is a caravan with Caleb getting nearer to Al Qaeda and an appointment with immortal fame. Unless he can be stopped. Thoroughly researched, Caleb's journey becomes your journey and you can't help rooting for this brave young man who seems determined to blot out pain and other emotions just to reach his goal.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shades of John le Carre, 4 Sept. 2005
By 
Amazon Customer (Glendale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Unknown Soldier (Paperback)
In the aftermath of the recent London Transport bombings, THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER has a topical theme.
Caleb is a terrorist wannabe - a graduate of an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. But his bad luck resulted in his capture by American troops and incarceration at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where for many months he successfully maintained the cover of being a simple taxi diver caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Finally, released as a PR gesture and returned to Afghanistan under guard, Caleb escapes before he can be handed over to the Afghani Security Service, and immediately starts the long journey to rejoin his Al Qaeda "family" now holed up in the Rub' al Khali desert of Saudi Arabia, otherwise known as the "Empty Quarter". Because Caleb is not an Arab, but rather an Outsider, he's to be given a special mission.
There is little in the way of "thriller" in THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER, a variance from the usual Gerald Seymour novel that may put off some of his fans. Rather, this novel resembles those penned by John le Carre in that it's relatively heavy on character development (Caleb's) and the sometimes plodding nature of intelligence work, and short on sustained action. Indeed, most of the plot involves Caleb's torturous camel journey across the searing hot Empty Quarter in the company of three other Al Qaeda foot soldiers, a Bedouin guide, and the latter's young son - all dedicated to delivering their precious charge to the organization's remote HQ. The opposition is represented by Marty and Lizzy-Jo, two young CIA operatives searching the Rub' al Khali for evidence of terrorists with cameras mounted on the remotely-controlled Predator drones they fly out of a remote desert base, the CIA's station chief in Riyadh, Juan Gonsalves, Juan's MI6 counterpart, Eddie Wroughton, who finds himself on the short end of the Anglo-American "special relationship", and Jed Dietrich, Caleb's Defense Intelligence Agency interrogator back in Gitmo. Jed was on vacation when the CIA and the FBI decided to cut Caleb loose, and now, after belatedly winkling out a clue as to the taxi driver's true identity, Jed is determined to rectify that mistake regardless of the peril to his career by being the bearer of bad news to his superiors.
I'm awarding THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER four stars because I've long been an admirer of the le Carre's style, which eschews sensationalism. However, in consciously or unconsciously emulating le Carre, Seymour has done something I've not seen in any of his other books, i.e., leave a glaring loose end that would seem to invite a sequel. But, since that's not been the author's style to date, I fear I'm left here with a book that has a somewhat unsatisfying ending. In all other respects, however, THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER is vintage Seymour in that it contains real-world characters engaged in a struggle that results in a Pyrrhic victory, if indeed victory is achieved at all.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Profound insight into the motivation of the terrorist and counter-terrorist., 21 Sept. 2007
This review is from: The Unknown Soldier (Paperback)
The Unknown Soldier by Gerald Seymour is one of the best attempts by a western writer to get into the minds of the different protagonists in what is misleadingly called 'the war on terror'.
The story is about a search for a suspected terrorist. It turns into a pursuit by an intelligence organisation deploying the latest machines of war to find and destroy a Bedu camel train in the Empty Quarter. It is a clash of individuals and technologies in a primitive environment which reaches a thrilling finale. It rings true in all sorts of ways.
However the book carries a bigger message. It shows how half a dozen people (for which we could also read cultures) look at the same situation, see different things, take actions they think appropriate, make the bigger situation worse and each declare victory. One cannot help drawing broader conclusions about current conflicts. This is another excellent story by Gerald Seymour and another profound insight by him into the complexity of international relations.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A long desert of a Novel, 27 Nov. 2009
This review is from: The Unknown Soldier (Paperback)
The Rub al Khali is known as 'the empty quarter', a large desert expanse in Saudi. Most of this novel follows the Unknown Soldier (apprentice terrorist) across the desert as drones search for him overhead. The novel starts well and has good insights into Camp Delta in Guantanamo, as well as good characters, with Dr Bart and Caleb both as Seymour's typical anti-heroes. The last 100 pages are gripping, but the problem is the 'empty quarter' or indeed the empty half of the book, from about pages 200- to 400, which make the novel drag as you march with the characters across the desert. Recommended, for die-hard Seymour or Le Carre fans but stick to McNabb if you want a quick adventure read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Unknown Soldier, 14 Aug. 2005
By 
Rich Milligan (Thatcham, Berkshire) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Unknown Soldier (Paperback)
"The Unknown Soldier" is the latest in the long line of superb Gerald Seymour current affairs thrillers. To be perfectly frank I'll a little surprised to see a couple of reviews claiming that this book was below his normal excellent standards and that they found it to be somewhat slow.
It's true that the action isn't breakneck speed with thrills and spills all over the place, but what Seymour can do like no other writer is create a slow pressure build up of tension and then culminate the action in a finale of incomparable proportions.
As in most other Seymour books there are plenty of other sub-plots that run alongside the main one and this book is no exception with four or five other goings on happening at the same time. Indeed it is with some of these lesser stories that I felt this book was even better than some of Seymour's previous works. I loved the
sub-story of Lovejoy, the Security Service Officer and Deitrich, the interrogator from Camp Delta, who pursue the question of who Caleb really is back home in England.
The characters also were as good as ever, Bart the doctor, who is being used by the Security Services in Saudi Arabia is at first slimy and dislikeable and yet by the end of the book you have more than a measure of sympathy for him. Beth Jenkins, the English teacher who is given special permission from the Saudi Royal family to live near the desert is another character you enjoy getting to know. There are plenty more besides these also.
What makes the whole book especially more poignant is that given the recent events that have tragically happened in London, Seymour shows more than a little of the qualities of a clairvoyant with his near prediction of a British born member of Al Qaeda receiving a luggage packed bomb to wreak terror in a populated area.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not Seymour's best but a good read, 27 Aug. 2011
By 
RR Waller "ISeneca" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Unknown Soldier (Hardcover)
SAFE READING - NO SPOILERS

Gerald Seymour has been writing great thrillers - well-researched and carefully written - for many years. Although this is not his best, it is a good read with great insights into terrorism and the continued threat from Al Qaeda and fundamentalists. I generally include a Seymour (or two) in holiday packing for beach reading and this was fascinating. Seymour fans will have a long list of previous books and this may not feature at the top of their best reads but, nevertheless, it is worth the time.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quality thriller from a quality writer., 4 May 2004
This review is from: The Unknown Soldier (Hardcover)
Gerald Seymour's novels never disapoint and this is no exception. Bang up to date, thought provoking, exciting, well written and an ending that sends a real shiver along the spine.
Read it!
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