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Feast of Bones Paperback – 1 Sep 1991

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Ivy Books; Reprint edition (Sept. 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080410834X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804108348
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 10.4 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,067,003 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Format: Paperback
It's rare for a book to show the Soviet military in a sympathetic light, even rarer for that book to be written during the Cold War! The main character is Dmitri Donskoy, a Soviet paratroop officer, who fights across the globe. The book, set between 1979 and 1985, ranges from training in the USSR to the invasion of Grenada, Afghanistan for the bulk of the work, and lastly the Kremlin in Moscow. Special mention goes to the chapter headings, which are wonderously evocative and set the tone nicely.
The book's main emphasis is on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and it's so gratifying to read an American work that doesn't descend into 'evil empire' stereotypes. The Soviet military there is composed of professional troops who get on with the job, soldiers just serving out their draft, incompetents and cowards - i.e. a normal selection of humans. Cackling sadists they are not. However, nor does the book shy away from the realities of the war, including torture and massacre. The reader is left to decide for themselves how they view the characters in the light of what they do. The various actions the Soviet army undertook are described in some detail, as well as the problems with their war effort. Nocturnal ambushing, reconnaissance, and full-scale assaults all get a turn in the spotlight. Donskoy himself comes across as an ideal soldier, a mouthpiece of the author, but this never detracts from the story. His behaviour an methodology don't seem to square with the Soviet army's way of doing things, but I suspect they are meant to be contrasted.
Feast of Bones' cast is varied and memorable; shout-outs go to the mentor figure (whose name I forget, begins with a 'P') and "that shifty-looking commisar" Zharkowsky, the book's mosst ruthless individual and the most interesting (for me, at any rate).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars 4 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Insight Into the Soviet Afghanistan Disaster, and Final Years of the USSR 4 Jun. 2014
By B. King - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I came across Feast of Bones because the author, now-retired U.S. Army LT. Gen. Daniel Bolger, just wrote a book entitled Why We Lost: a General's Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0544370481/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 In a sense, we have two books here -- novel and nonfiction -- that bracket the author's long military career dealing with combat experience in the Middle East.

Daniel Bolger published Feast of Bones in 1990. It remains a useful, remarkably well-written read nearly a quarter century later. Back in those final Cold War years, Bolger was a young, determined-looking Army infantry captain, if the photo on the dust-jacket is indicative. He took his U.S. military experience, and changed perspective. That is, he wrote a book about life in the Soviet Army in the 1970s and 1980s, with distinct focus on the Red Army effort in Afghanistan.

It's bold for an American military officer to pretend to be inside the head of a foreign counterpart, in this case, a Soviet captain of paratroopers. The risk is a silly book filled with tendentious inaccuracy, projection and mirror-imaging. Still, Bolger holds a Masters Degree in Russian History, and a PhD in International History -- from the University of Chicago, no less. In other words, Bolger apparently knows a few things about what he describes in his novel. In fact, this is a novel with a worthy bibliography, naming a host of well-qualified sources on Russia and the USSR, to include scholarly authors like David Glantz, David Isby, Steven Zaloga and the always-insightful Soviet defector "Viktor Suvorov." These and more, to be sure. So Bolger did his research.

Novelistically, we follow several years in the life of a fictitious Red Army captain named Dimitriy Donskov. We begin with serious action, and "can't-stop-reading" excitement, via an ambush on the trail from Pakistan into Afghanistan. Then we flash back to paratrooper officer candidate school and basic training (a section in which Viktor Suvorov's vivid descriptions are quite evident). There's a description of life in the Soviet Army as arrayed against the imperialist forces of NATO in Europe. We even have a quick expedition by Donskov to Grenada during the U.S. invasion. Then a long trip "south," into the rocky massif of Afghanistan. Finally, a journey to Moscow, where Donskov plays a role in bringing Michael Gorbachev to power over the USSR.

As novels go, the book is beautifully written. Bolger has a gift for excellent sentence structure, and a careful, comfortable style that flows easily. Add in a remarkable sense for key points of Russian history, culture and even mysticism, evidenced by casual reference to famous comments by notables ranging from Vladimir Lenin back to Pilotheus of Pskov.

Still, why read this book from way back in 1990? Isn't it ancient history by now? No, and Bolger's novel remains relevant; even important, I'd argue... and I say that with the benefit of more than two decades of hindsight. Bolger gives the reader a vivid overview of life inside the highly politicized ("politically correct," we say today) Soviet Army back then; and couples it with a dramatic description of the operational and tactical follies -- and some of the better efforts -- of the Soviet military experience in Afghanistan.

Indeed, as I was reading Feast of Bones, I asked myself... a US Army captain knew all of this, back then? And he based it on what he saw happen with the Red Army in Afghanistan? Well, at least the Army was smart enough to promote Daniel Bolger to the rank of general. Then again, as the Soviet experience demonstrates, even the best of efforts are wasted when political masters back in the capital city have a failed strategic vision, and plod onward to national disaster in the face of their own myopic careerism.
3.0 out of 5 stars Russians in Afghanistan 28 Jan. 2016
By R. Haggard - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was a good story of the Russian experience in Afghanistan. It moved well and seemed quite believable until the last couple of chapters when it went off the rails.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does a Superb Job of Capturing the Universal Ethos of the Professional Soldier 30 Mar. 1999
By Christopher M. Coglianese - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I have read every one of Lieutenant General Dan Bolger's books. This one is among his very best in my opinion. His writing is crisp, his knowledge of soldiers and soldiering is unmatched, and the story is compelling without some of the folksy writing that occasionally works its way into his non-fiction works. His background, both military and academic, guarantee the authenticity of the details that make this compelling reading. Like RED ARMY, by Ralph Peters, FEAST OF BONES is an easily readable insight into the force that routinely gave American military leaders sleepless nights from 1945 to 1991. I had the privilege of serving with Lieutenant General Bolger, in peace and war, in the 101st Airborne and 1st Cavalry Divisions and he convinced me to major in military history at West Point many, many years ago in just 3 minutes. If you can get your hands on this book, read it. Infantry Officers will find Cadet Donskov's training particularly compelling and may bring back a few flashbacks from Darby Phase. A superb precursor to viewing the movie 9TH COMPANY. [Updated review in 2010 from initial review in 1999].
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Feast of Bones is a worthy wartime read 18 Oct. 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Having stumbled across Daniel Bolger's Feast of Bones in a used bookstore, I had no idea of the quality of the narrative, character development, and objectivity of the point of view. Since it takes place in Russia and Afganistan, and it takes the Russian paratrooper sight-line, the reader might find it difficult at first, if one is hardliner anti-Soviet. Feast of Bones reminds me of other novels written by 'natives,' like Das Boot. Bolger gets inside the Russian military mind with his lead character Desantnik D. I. Donslov's singleminded commitment to fighting a war intuitively, instinctively, and historically. I was so impressed by Bolger's ability to create fiction from fact that I turned to Amazon.com to find anything else he's done, besides his military textbooks, only to find that Feast of Bones is out of print. For a 1990 title, it's too bad, and warrior readers' loss. Knowing this, I'll keep my copy... wishing that Bolger would write another novel one of these days.
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