Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Reaper

This is the account of a US Army Ranger sniper, apparently one of the most successful in the war in Afghanistan. It’s a good book in part because it successfully avoids many of the pitfalls of the military biography.

A lot of these books go on and on about the training, so much so that the reader is like, “Yeah, I get it, it was tough, can you get to the part I want to read about please? Like, what was it like in Afghanistan?” Thankfully, this account gets it just right, the author detailing his training but not in too much detail. Another error authors’ of this kind of book make is to be too macho. There are numerous ex-soldiers who seem to get a kick out of telling you just how badass they are. Again, this doesn’t do this. In fact, despite the number of kills he racked up, he’s quite modest about his achievements. I appreciated that; it made him and his teammates more human and allowed the reader to warm to him as a person.

One of the most contentious issues in the war in Afghanistan has been Special Forces night raids. These are when Special Forces raid a compound in the middle of the night to kill or capture a High Value Target (HVT). Strangely, and despite the controversy these raids garner amongst the Afghan people, this issue hasn’t been covered much in the literature to emerge from the war. Instead drones and drone strikes attract far more column inches. I started reading this book thinking it was going to be the story of a US Army Ranger, which of course it was, but was surprised to find that a number of operations the author writes about are night raids. This was a welcome development as I do find that information on this issue is lacking. The book gave a real insight into these operations and one that is difficult to come by elsewhere.

If I have one criticism of this book it is the writing style. Sometimes it is a little difficult to know just what’s going on. Sometimes things aren’t explained well enough and I found myself confused about who was doing what.

I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

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