Well-told combat narrative that raises disturbing questions about America’s professionalized military and the post-9/11...

OUTLAW PLATOON

HEROES, RENEGADES, INFIDELS, AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF WAR IN AFGHANISTAN

Grim, gritty account of infantry combat on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, from a youthful lieutenant determined to act nobly amid violence and chaos.

In 2006, Parnell was a neophyte Army Airborne Ranger with the storied 10th Mountain Division, assigned as a new platoon leader in Afghanistan, desperate to prove himself: “In combat, men measure up. Or fail. There are no second chances.” This honesty about emotional and sensory aspects of combat drives this narrative more than overt commentary on the Afghanistan mission. As it happened, Parnell received many opportunities to prove himself in battle. The narrative develops around several grueling set pieces, in which Parnell’s platoon was ambushed by an insurgent faction that unexpectedly turned out to be a skilled, disciplined and cold-blooded fighting force, determined to win a propaganda victory by brutalizing an American platoon. These raw, controlled scenes of battle seemingly benefit from the authorial collaboration: Besides being a prolific author of military histories, Bruning (Chasing Shadows: A Special Agent's Lifelong Hunt to Bring a Cold War Assassin to Justice, 2011, etc.) embedded himself with a combat unit in Afghanistan in 2010. The result is a carefully rendered account of Parnell’s tour, with verisimilitude provided by extensive specific details illustrating the sheer complexity of modern combat, as well as the frustrating officer politics on remote bases. Parnell focuses on the experiences of several platoon members, and he writes that it is brotherly love that bonds soldiers in combat, ensuring their survival. He also observes his comrades’ deep ambivalence toward their Pakistani allies and the Afghani people's willingness to reform and defend their society. The book’s main flaw is a repetitiveness that becomes mawkish: Points about the soldiers’ personal burdens and the bond of brotherhood in combat are made so often that they become less rather than more effective. This flaw, however, may not bother the book’s intended audience.

Well-told combat narrative that raises disturbing questions about America’s professionalized military and the post-9/11 objectives with which they’ve been tasked.

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-206639-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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