on 5 February 2007
I have read all of Pressfield's work and apart from Gates of Fire, and Last of the Amazons, I have to say, they have not lived up to the early promise of Gates of Fire. Alexander was a bit of a let down and Tides didn't live up to its billing.
The Afghan Campaign for me, reminded me what a really great author Mr. Pressfield is. I was hooked from the start right to the end and I think anyone should read this book and will feel better for having done so.
I hope his next works live up to this excellent book!
A must buy!
on 10 January 2009
This book is the second time Pressfield has touched on the career of Alexader the Great. The previous book, 'Alexander: The Virtues of War' was designed partly to defend Alexander against some of the more sensational imaginings of other writers, eg about his Oedipal tendencies. 'The Afghan Campaign' provides in the end a more satisfying vision because the consequences of Alexander's bent for attempting the impossible are seen from below, through the eyes of a rank-and-file Macedonian soldier; and the focus is on a campaign that essentially could not be won - any more than anyone else has been able to 'win' in Afghanistan since. Pressfield''s trademark descriptions of the harshness of warfare are here as usual, and there is a more detailed and touching story of heterosexual relations than usual at the novel's centre. However, for many the main fascination will be the many, accurate, and surely deliberate parallels with the issues faced (and errors made) by the Western coalition fighting in Afghanistan today.
on 23 February 2009
This is a good historical account of the most brutal campaign in Alexanders war to subdue and bring into the fold all the lands that were once apart of the Persian empire. The war in Afghanistan brought a new type of warfare to Alexander The Greats conquering armies, a guerilla war that was to that date unmatched in the brutality which was shown to both civilians and enemy combatants. The warriors of Alexander had to not only face male warriors in battle but also female and in some cases children who would gain the trust of the Macedonian warriors only to have them poison their food or slit their throats in the night, this as one can imagine brings a no mercy policy to any Afghan who shows any sign of insurrection.
This story tells of the adventures of two Macedonian youths who seek fame and glory in Alexanders army, Matthias and his friend Lucas. They leave there farms to join with the new recruits heading off to the Afghan front, right from the very beginning they are surprised at how different things are to how they thought they might be. They arrive at the base camp with nothing other than the clothes they are wearing only to find that they have to buy or scavenge their armour and weapons from the dead after a battle. They soon discover that the glory of war is just a myth, the only thing that matters are your friends and survival, they also discovered that this new type of war will be like one that has never been fought before, the brutality they witness and commit leaves them wishing they were back home on there farms. The only thing that keeps them sane is their friendship with each other and their fellow warriors around them, they know that they can only count on each other.
This is a good book from Pressfield, but if you're looking for another Gates Of Fire you may be disappointed, that being said this is a good book that is well worth reading. Anyone who likes tales of Alexander will like this!
on 6 December 2007
Alexander's campaign in the Upper Satrapies is a much forgotten part of his wars of conquest and I'm glad this book drew attention to it. Unlike many other historical authors, Pressfield is really good at highlighting the sides of a soldier's life that are much forgotten, particularly the issue of camp wives.
However, I disagree a lot with many of the historical and cultural assumptions he makes. For example, the premise of the story is that Matthias is part of relief unit. This is untrue as Alexander seems to have fallen out with Antipater (general in charge of Greece) around 330 BC and receives no new recruits afterwards. Also, the excessive filling in the blanks of the soldier's lifestyle with that of a modern one he researched while writing. I think this undermines what I think a good historical fiction novel should do and that is convince you of the mindset of past societies. Instead, it looks like he's forcing parallels between ancient and modern Afghanistan.
on 28 October 2008
Over the last few months I have read several Steven Pressfield novels and I have to say that the Afghan Campaign has been one of my favourites. All the hype focuses on another Pressfield novel "Gates of Fire"(which is excellent) but this novel almost equals it.
Each Pressfield novel is written from a different perspective and in the Afghan Campaign the book is seen from a normal soldiers view. And perhaps this is why I enjoyed it so much. Its a far easier read than Pressfields "Tides of War" for example.
Just try it, I bet you'll like it.
on 29 August 2007
Steven Pressfields books are very complex, this being no exception. As always in the first person from the account of a simple soldier in the time of Alexander the Greats campaign into Afganistan.
Lots of imformation on the campaign is given in this very gripping novel with great characters and a engrossing storyline. I was surprised that I enjoyed this book so much because I normally like lots of action and battles, this was actually a refreshing change from that. This book deserves to be read again and again.
This is one of Steven Pressfiled's very best books, perhaps even his best, although readers (including myself) generally prefer his more accessible "Gates of Fire". Just like "Tides of War", this book is about the horrors of war. Unlike "Gates of Fire", there are no "heroes" here, just two simple Macedonian soldiers who struggle to survive against the odds, with the crossing of the Afghan mountains being particularly horrific. There is no undying glory or sense of a higher purpose either, as the whole campaign, probably Alexander's hardest of all, was fought with little to gain and against an ennemy that was impossible to really defeat.
This is where Pressfield is at his best when describing the feelings of the common soldiers dragged into a war that they do not understand and suffering and surviving an ordeal that seems largely unnecessary to begin with. Another strong point of his is the huge difference between the glorious and heroïc presentation of war, fighting for the "good cause", making a fortune through heroïc deeds and so one, and the grim and harsh realities where the newcomers are left on their own as they arrive, without even the basic equipment that they must scavenge and woth some of the veterans callously betting on how long they will survive (this piece comes in fact from the historical sources, if I remember correctly). However, this aspect, which is all about despair, perseverance and survival, is also the one that most readers have found difficult to warm up to. Most readers (myself included) want to read about heroïc deeds more than grim, despairing and harsh realities. In Gates of Fire, you had both. In the Afghan Campaign, only the latter remain.
Nevertheless, this "ultra-realistic" approach is extremely well done, and somewhat despairing. Comparing this book with Gates of Fire is somewhat unfair since the stories are so different. In fact, the main thing they have in common is their author and his depiction of the horrors of war. I loved this book, just as much as I loved Gates of Fire. However, when finishing the latter, I felt somehow elated, despite the ending that is so well known. When I finished the Afghan Campaign, I felt rather depressed and horrified. That, perhaps, is the main difference between the two books, but it does not make one better than the other. In my view, they are just as good, although one will (and has been) necessarily much more popular than the other...
Steven Pressfield was born in 1943. He is an American novelist and author of screenplays, principally of military historical fiction set in classical antiquity. His historical fiction is well-researched, but for the sake of dramatic flow, Pressfield may alter some details, like the sequence of events, or make use of jarring contemporary terms and place names, his stated aim being an attempt to capture the spirit of the times.
I must admit I don't find Steven Pressfield's books easy to read. That is not to say that they are not worth reading, in fact the opposite applies. The problem for me lies in the fact that they are so full of detail and have such an extensive character list, that I am forever checking back for something that I may have missed, or for a name that I can put to a character. But there can be no doubting the quality of the author's writing and this is a small price to pay,.
Steven Pressfield, the best selling novelist of ancient warfare, returns with a riveting historical novel that re-creates the invasion of the Afghan kingdoms in 330 BC by Alexander the Great.
on 17 July 2013
The premise of the book was good because it went beyond alexander the great and gave the personal story of a soldier in his army, however it did not deliver and i found it hard to get stuck into the novel, perhaps because i was not as fascinated by alexander the great as i was by the spartans and the battle of thermopylae.
on 20 January 2013
I don't, normally. like books written in the first person but, in this case, it was absolutely the right choice. You don't just follow Matthias as he moves from idealistic youth to become, finally, a grizzled veteran in Alexander's army, you ARE Matthias. Other reviews comment upon the very obvious similarlties between this story of the ancient world and modern day warfare in Afghanistan but, for me, that is almost incidental as, far more gripping is the inexorable slide from honour and glory into a morally bereft mire where 'winning' just means lasting through another day.
This manly tale of full scale war also contains huge doses of every emotion form love to tragedy and taking in filial devotion, parenthood, joy and despair along the way. In the end, the reader feels such empathy for Matthias that you too feel the utter inevitabilty of the final chapter.
This book doesn't 'grab you from the first page'; it slowly envelops you in silken claws until you realise that this story owns you and, until you follow Matthias to the conclusion of his story, you're hooked. Mr Pressfield has well earned his five stars.