Customer Review

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars WAR---this will open you eyes..., 27 Jan 2011
This review is from: War (Hardcover)
WAR
by Sebastian Junger

Book Review by Jay Gilbertson

For over fifteen months author Junger (a Vanity Fair contributing editor) shadowed a single American army platoon in and around the Korengal Valley located deep in a remote part of Afghanistan. This is NOT an easy read, but one of the most compelling accounts of something most of us know very little about. This is not the kind of information you will ever see or hear in the media--this is what it's really like out there--and it's not what you think.

It's worse.

"The core psychological experiences of war are so primal and unadulterated, however, that they eclipse subtler feelings, like sorrow or remorse, that can gut you quietly for years."

Junger lives the life of combat in an area so humanly unfriendly it's often hard to read; let alone imagine. For the entire duration of their tour there is no running water, no cooked food, no women or booze or internet. Their time is filled with constant stress so palpable it will change them forever. How could it not?

This is not a diary, nor is it a case-study of how a soldier lives, nor is it in any way political; it's a collection of brutal experiences. From intense gun-fire and grenade tossing and road bombs that tear up young men beyond recognition to a myriad of horrible injuries and death all tied to the fact that this particular platoon fights as one unit.

That theme is what powers this entire piece. This group of incredibly well-trained men would rather die themselves than be the cause of any other soldier's demise. There's a little known practice called blood-in and blood out to cement this into each and every soldiers psyche and to break the boredom.

"...you got beat on your birthday, you got beat before you left the platoon--on leave, say--and you got beat when you came back. The only way to leave Second Platoon without a beating was to get shot."

One of the more interesting (as well as frustrating) techniques that Junger weaves into his narrative is the reference to many old studies on the behavior of men in combat, as well as current-day neurological research and psychological studies. These commercial-like inserts are on subjects as varied as the biological effects of an adrenaline rush to the weight each individual can carry and though they perhaps serve some fact-checking purpose, they drove me a little crazy. You can appreciate the validity of peppering a difficult subject as war with facts that explain human reactions but I couldn't help but wonder if Junger was in need of `fill.'

The sad truth that Junger drives home is that no matter what side you're on, no matter what you're fighting for; oil, land, honor, revenge, religion--fill in the blank--no one seems to win.

After reading WAR it's clear to me that once a soldier returns home, there is a part of that soldier--that never returns home.
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 26 Apr 2011 12:59:38 BDT
H. Shadroui says:
I am curious about your 3 star grade for this book. Your review seems quite positive and compelling. Why did you give the book only three stars?

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Apr 2011 15:00:39 BDT
Very good question, thank you. I gave it only three stars because the entire 'collection' had no emotion. It was void of feeling on any level and I felt this made the author seem very disconnected from his subject (s). I found this troubling and rather cold-hearted. It could simply be the author's method of simply 'reporting the news'.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Apr 2011 15:07:45 BDT
H. Shadroui says:
Thank you for your reply. I loved Junger's The Perfect Storm, which was wonderful reporting, not lacking in feeling at all. Then I read his next book, which was about the Boston Strangler, and I found it really flat. Nice prose, but there didn't seem to be any investment of feeling. So I am not surprised, only disappointed, to read your comment. Such a pity.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 May 2011 01:47:25 BDT
streetyson says:
Interesting - I found the Restrepo film had the same effect on me as it appears the book did on you.

Good review - voted.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Aug 2014 19:45:53 BDT
Jay, you might consider he himself is suffering from what is known as compassion fatigue, a very close condition to PTSD...
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