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on 21 November 2001
I'm not a big fan of war novels or films but escaping from this book is impossible once you read the first page. Mark Bowden focuses on a mission that was supposed to take just an hour but instead took 24 hours and cost many lives. This book drags you into the heart of the US battle against Somali warlords in Mogadishu and and pages fly past as quickly as the bullets within them.
Mark Bowden has clearly done his research for this book - highlighting both the grievances of the Somali people who felt persecuted by US involvement in their country and the terrors faced by the highly trained elite US Rangers and Delta Forces on the ground and in the air, for whom this battle went terribly wrong.
This battle of US technological might against Somali warlords and ordinary onlookers is especially potent given recent events, and I would strong encourage everyone to read it to gain a glimpse into the US psyche. I defy anyone to not thoroughly enjoy this book!
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on 18 April 2001
I was initially dubious about his book. I'm not a big reader of military accounts, and was afraid that the book would just wind up being a chest beating epic for military fetishists. I must admit that I was pleasently surprised. The narrative spins off into many different stories of the different individuals involved in the fighting, and you find yourself quite absorbed by all of them. It also, to my surprise, isn't just about how the US Rangers and Delta's kicked everyones ass (hoo ha!) it talks of their disilusionment with the American foreign policy, talks of the tribal complexities of the situation they had been thrust into, and creates a solid base of characters as likable as those from any similar novel. But with the added bonus (?) of being true. Superbly researched, excitingly written, this a book you will find hard to put down.
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VINE VOICEon 5 August 2010
Well known via the excellent Ridley Scott film of the same name, journalist Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down gets the reader inside the story of a team of American Rangers and Delta Force, who are sent on a mission to kidnap local warlord/clan leader Mohammed Farrah Aidid. This October 1993 mission in Mogadishu, Somalia, resulted in the most intense firefight U.S. troops had experienced since the Vietnam war. Bowden recounts this story primarily from the U.S. point of view.

This book is visceral and graphically bloody, as books about war should be but it is neither sensational nor indulgent in "gun-porn" i.e. lavish descriptions of weapons, bullets and sadistic descriptions of injuries.

Where Ridley Scott's otherwise superb film falters is that when Africans are killed, the scene is filmed with all the adrenalised panache of a top dollar Hollywood action film, the faceless hordes having no more personality than the Orcs of Lord of the Rings; when a U.S. soldier is shot, we get cliched slow motion, sweeping strings musical accompaniment, close ups of pain and anguish. Bowden's book is not so simplistic. Though Mark Bowden does interview a few Somalis, their perspective on events is drastically marginalised. More clearly, this savage act of aggression (on both sides) occurred in the midst of a city of more than one million people and no doubt there were a vast number of civilian deaths. In fairness, Bowden does briefly mention that women and children are indiscriminately killed by panicking U.S. soldiers but this is a minor concern when compared against the space given to the terrible pain of the American soldier's wives and girlfriends back home, not knowing if their loved ones were okay.

What comes across most emphatically is the incredible disorganisation of this U.S. operation, where contingency planning seemed to be non-existent; if Plan A didn't work, there appeared to be no Plan B or C. The chaos of a confused chain of command, soldiers discipline breaking down, confused, frenzied, almost hysterical actions of the soldier in the city, the seeming impotence of the generals commanding the troops to effect the results, all resonate strongly throughout this book. Likewise, there are moments of heroic bravery, selflessness and compassion that the American soldiers displayed.

Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down is superbly well researched, taking his account of the battle from multiple sources, predominantly the soldier on the street. Consequently, this book reads as narrative fiction as opposed to history (though its factual authenticity is not in doubt). As a story of modern war, Black Hawk Down has a lot to show us about how the most fearsome military machine on the planet almost cracked against a third world militia.
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Capturing the ambiguous horror and kinetic poetry of war, Bowden's book is probably the definitive account of combat and the experience of the modern infantry soldier. The film version was good, but the book is even better. At once cautionary and celebatory, this reads better than any novel and sears itself into the soul. Shocking and deeply moving, this is a life-changing read of unsurpassed brilliance.
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I did not know of this book until the film was out. I saw the film first(which was amazing) and I decided to read the book. I found it more in depth than the film, and at first it was quite a difficult read. But once I had got into it I found it amazing, and really moving. It also educated me, as a true, honest book that was not written to send up the u.s rangers. I thought the fact that Bowden interviewed so many people to gather information to write this was really good, as it gives you more of an insight into what actually happened.
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on 28 November 2001
An accurate and emotionally involving account of the political failure in Somalia, leading to the American troops getting sucked into the maelstrom of warlord politics, leading to an attempt to snatch one of them. When that mission went wrong, helicopter extraction led to two groups on the ground needing rescuing, leading in the end to several deaths. Mission creep, command, control and what happens when the plan goes wrong all well-recorded in a pretty well-written page-turner.
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on 7 July 2000
This is a brilliant and rivetting piece of soldier journalism. Not only is Bowden expert enough as a writer and historian to convey clearly the tactics and strategy of the operation but what makes this outstanding is that the viewpoint is nearly always the soldiers'. The author has somehow got his interviewee's to open their hearts and minds about what really went on, blood, guts and all. The result is that the reader feels as if they are right in the thick of it and in this sense it reminded me of the film Saving Private Ryan. I've read all the SAS "true stories" and this is up there with the best of them. Hoo-ahhhhh! If you don't know the story, just go straight into it and don't read the back cover.
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on 9 August 2012
There are already lots of reviews which focus on the formidable research evident on every page of this book and the attention given to the Somali perspective. As an enormous fan of the film I want to concentrate on its relationship with this book.

As I'm sure is the case with most people, I watched the film first and then read the book. What I really liked was the way in which relatively minor instances in the film are fully fleshed out and and contextualised in the book. For instance, Super Six One clips a building on its way down in the film and Bowden managed to interview one of the boys who lived in that very house. Accounts of the 160th SOAR pilots' phenomenal skills and superhuman confidence underline just how much of a shock it was for two helicopters to be grounded in battle. The tension between the Rangers and the "D-Boys" (Delta Force), largely acted out by Sanderson and Steele in the film, is given greater attention as Bowden focuses on the Rangers' admiration for Delta but reveals that some Delta soldiers did not have total confidence in the Rangers. The part in the film which sees the asthmatic Ranger almost deciding not to go back into battle is explored in the book and we see that Struecker, who asked him to reconsider, actually understood - and almost agreed with - his initial decision to stay at base, but he had to remain wholly professional. Sizemore's devotion, which caused him to put a knife to his own cast so that he could join the battle, is also revealed as true to life.

If I had a criticism of the book it would be one that is, in a strange way, also praise. The book manages to recreate the dizzying atmosphere of the film, in which (on a first viewing) we can quickly lose track of names and locations. The book is told in roughly chronogical order but it digresses so often into, say, a certain soldier's background that there are only a few moments where we get the same sense of tension and thrust as the film. But this is down to the sheer amount of research Bowden has carried out and the number of individual stories he wants to tell - stories which the film often glosses over or omits completely.
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on 11 March 2007
This book is based on a true story of the American Rangers and Delta Force's attempt in October 1993 to abduct two top lieutenants of a Somali warlord from the heart of Mogadishu, Somalia. There is also an award winning movie of the same name.

This book is not for the faint hearted and if it was a book of fiction you would feel it has gone over the top. However, it is a book of fact and was written with the full cooperation of those involved (although it does feel as though it is a fictional novel). The whole of the situation was filmed and recorded by a US spy plane and the writer has had access to all these recordings.

It is not an easy book to read simply because a lot of the book is descriptive and it is very difficult to remember who is where within the town in relation to each other (and remember all the characters involved). However, the book leaves nothing to the imagination. Some of the situations, horrors and injuries described can almost be felt and you can almost taste the blood. The book succeeds in viewing the situation through the eyes of the people involved and the pure fright, frustrations and determination.

Also, this is not a book from a US viewpoint where the good guys win through in the end (although technically the operation was a success as it achieved the goals set out). It is a warts and all view of what happened.

This book is harrowing. You will either love it or hate it but one thing's for certain - you will feel it.
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on 9 March 2006
I have read this book so many times after seeing the film, getting the DVD and have since been engrossed in the Somalian, middle East and "humanitarian" wars before and since! Mark Bowden has given an in depth account of the front line Rangers and Delta forces in the Mog in 1993. How a routine operation to capture some of Somalias warlords went horribly wrong for the innocent people of Somalia, the troops on the ground.. and not so much, The administration. A fantastic epic which although has alot of Military Jargon is best read twice.. or more to come to grips with the harsh reality of Modern Day War! Absolutely OUTSTANDING *****
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