Gritty combat memoir by an elite British sniper.
Harrison’s memoir focuses on the technical aspects of high-level gunfighting, as battle-tested during his multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. He opens with a tense encounter in Afghanistan, setting up the shot that would earn a world record for a long-distance kill, then downshifts into recounting his hardscrabble, dreary childhood. Things pick up for Harrison and readers when he signs on at age 16 with the British Household Cavalry. He learned about the ugly realities of war during a posting in the Balkans, where he bore witness to Serbian war crimes, and then a tour of Iraq that “had come close to breaking me.” Instead, in 2006, he pestered his way into sniper school: “I just kept asking—literally for years—until I ground them down.” As in the United States, the training is grueling, yet Harrison persevered, winning top student. His new skills served him well in 2007, he notes, when “I was back for another tour in the shithole that was Iraq.” Promoted to command after his first Afghanistan tour, the author documents frequent ambushes and grisly combat tableaux in both theaters: “There wasn’t much logic or background explained to us. We were like ‘rent-a-muscle.’ ” He notes that a certain coldbloodedness is essential for the sniper: “Due to the magnification of the scope, you do tend to see the person you are about to shoot.” Even after being wounded by an IED, Harrison was returned for combat to Afghanistan. He excels at capturing the nitty-gritty of being an operating high-end combat sniper, ably discussing equipment, optics, shooting theory, and stalking tactics. Seeing the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts through the eyes of a British soldier also helps the book stand out. Otherwise, a sense of the author’s inner life does not really develop beyond the laconic conservatism one might expect.
Will appeal to fans of unapologetically brutal military writing.