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Eight Lives Down Paperback – 30 May 2008
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"A ticking bomb of a book; breathtakingly tense, fast-paced and incredibly moving. The best war memoir I've read in years" (Andy McNab)
"You might expect an account of disabling bombs to be repetitive or overly technical, but Hunter's is neither. Each incident is fascinatingly different and edge-of-the-seat dramatic, and Hunter recounts them with vividness and clarity" (Daily Mail)
"Thoughtful, gripping and engaging... The emotion, the immediacy, the adrenalin rush of what it feels like to walk towards a device that may or may not blow at any minute taking you and everyone in the proximity with it packs an authentic punch" (Kate Mosse The Times)
"Chris Hunter is a very brave man. His work couldn't be more terrifying or necessary" (Daily Mirror)
"Action-packed... A breathtaking story of courage and survival" (News of the World)
The most exciting and nerve-jangling work of military non-fiction since Bravo Two ZeroSee all Product description
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The book follows the tour of Chris Hunter, a seasoned expert in bomb disposal having had tours in Northern Island and stints training Colombian troops in the art to help the combat the IRA trained cocaine cartels and combat the war on drugs.
The book is written in a fast and lively diary-esque style which suits the subject matter and setting and makes it quick and easy to read. Each chapter is headed with little nuggets or wisdom, extracts, and quotes from famous quotes, speeches and people which sum up the upcoming chapter in the eyes of the author. These I quite liked.
However, what I found most revealing about the book was what the actual role entailed. I never realised the complexity and the depth of these people's work until now, having thought they just used diffuse all manner of bombs and IEDs with a snip of a few wires... I couldn't have been more wrong.
The role goes far beyond mere (if that's the right word?!) bomb disposal with the ATO teams becoming detectives, using every means possible to hunt down the bomb makers. They gather forensic evidence, build psychological profiles, examine patterns, and search for signatures - all in an attempt to stay one step ahead of the bombing teams.
Chris Hunter was so affective in his role at disrupting the the IED teams in Iraq, he actually ended up being actively targeted by the bomb makers who went out of their way to try and set traps with secondary devices specifically planted to try and take him out.
Add to this the inclusion of personal pressures at home caused by his role, and Hunter's very stressful tour helps to show how hard a job in the armed forces can be, and the toll it takes on those left at home as well as the troops on the ground.
I would have liked the book to go into more depth about the forensic techniques, the detective work, and how Chris went about building a case against the bombers, but I understand why its important to keep these things secret. All in all, though the book makes for an interesting read and is very different to most war memoirs I've read
Be prepared for a riveting read and a very human and moving story that is well written and has only one problem, you can't or daren't put it down. And you certainly look at items at the side of the road in a different light after this!
This book was the first i read of Private Johnson Beharry VC. I read Sniper One by SGT Dan Mills after this book (another good read, based in Al-Amarrah at roughly the same time, not as expertly written as this book but really engaging read all the same) which also described the steely courage of Pvte Beharry VC -- i'd like to meet that soldier! Although this book doesn't tell of Pvte Beharry VC's fate (Sniper One tells a little more), i've since read that he's been awarded the VC and more importantly survived that RPG attack on his warrior. I mention Pvte Beharry's survival here for those that read the book and are left wondering on his fate.
It does have a flaw though, and it is this.
In common with other such autobiographical accounts the author is clearly aware that persons named in the book will pore over anything he may write about them. This is very apparent with colleagues (meaning each and every one is a `top bloke' or `first class soldier') but even more so with his wife. The author peppers the book with remorse and anguish about the strain his work places on their relationship so much so that that at times you wonder if this isn't a book about defusing IEDs at all - rather a pitch to save their marriage.
Having said all that, there is much to recommend this book, and whilst it doesn't have the Alamo-esque suspense of Sniper One: The Blistering True Story of a British Battle Group Under Siege, it is nevertheless a highly entertaining read and testament to the unquestionably courageous work of the IEDD teams.
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