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A Soldier's Duty: A Novel

A Soldier's Duty: A Novel

4.5 2
by Thomas E. Ricks

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Majors Cindy Sherman and Bud Lewis are the best young combat officers the army has, and they’ve both been tapped for plum positions as aides-de-camp for two of the Pentagon’s most senior generals. The Pentagon is a cauldron of careerist jockeying and factional squabbling in the best of times, though, and these are not the best of times. A president whom


Majors Cindy Sherman and Bud Lewis are the best young combat officers the army has, and they’ve both been tapped for plum positions as aides-de-camp for two of the Pentagon’s most senior generals. The Pentagon is a cauldron of careerist jockeying and factional squabbling in the best of times, though, and these are not the best of times. A president whom the officer class widely loathes sits in the White House, and grumblings that he’s steering the military onto the rocks are growing louder. Some officers are openly asking: If you believe the president is betraying his country, where does your duty lie?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this brisk and assured fiction debut, set in a near-future Washington, D.C., Washington Post Pentagon correspondent Ricks (author of Making the Corps, an account of boot-camp training) crafts a taut, stimulating tale of contemporary military dilemmas, public and personal. The central issue is the military's role in a democracy: given an unpopular commander-in-chief and an even more unpopular commitment of U.S. troops as peacekeepers in Afghanistan, what is a self-respecting general to do? Ignore his military sense and say yes to a bad political decision, like stolid, hard-drinking army chief-of-staff John Shillingsworth? Or defy orders and attack the position of the civilian government, like flashy, Custeresque B.Z. Ames, vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff? As the two debate the issues with their romantically involved aides, Majors Cindy Sherman and Buddy Lewis, U.S. troops get bogged down in Afghanistan, lives are lost, officers are court-martialed and a shadowy group of officers called the Sons of Liberty slowly moves from e-mail dissent to outright treason. Ricks uses a crisp, reportorial style to get into the heads of all his characters, and by making them passionate about their positions, he succeeds in creating a genuine debate in which both sides make good sense. Only when the actions of the Ames side become murderous does the book flirt with predictability, but it never goes too far, thanks to Ricks's control of the narrative. This engrossing read will satisfy those who want ideas as well as action it's an unusually thoughtful military thriller. (May 22) Forecast: The intrigue here is mostly D.C-based and often intellectual, and may not appeal to readers of mainstream thrillers. But those who appreciate a more challenging perspective will be in their element. A five-city author tour and national advertising are scheduled. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This first novel by Ricks, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post journalist, is an intriguing, thoughtful, and exciting tale of today's U.S. military. When a peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan goes tragically wrong, officers led by Gen. B.Z. Ames form a treasonous group called the "Sons of Liberty" to unravel American foreign policy and further General Ames's position. Army majors Cindy Sherman and Bud Lewis are newly assigned to the Pentagon, where they become involved in both sides of the developing problem. Although it does share themes with Fletcher Knebel's classic Seven Days in May, this work is unique in its take on a military that is sworn to uphold the Constitution but must deal with a White House that has little regard for life. Though occasionally preachy, Ricks's debut is an interesting and fast-paced commentary on the complex problems confronting the military and the civilian government. For all general collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/01.] Robert Conroy, Warren, MI Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
6.48(w) x 9.64(h) x 1.03(d)

Read an Excerpt

Memorial Bridge Before dawn, Friday, July 8

The U.S. military is headquartered in Washington, but it is not of Washington. Its heart lies a thousand miles away, or more-in the Army, at Fort Leavenworth; in the Air Force, along a dozen different runways in the South and Southwest; in the Navy, in Norfolk, San Diego and Pearl Harbor. For most in Washington, Congress is the engine that drives daily life. When Congress is in session, there is an extra energy in Washington's downtown. When Congress is "in," people work later hours, and spouses are often missing at dinner parties. But even so, the pace is generally the pace of Congress-rising late and not engaging the world until about ten in the morning. The military sticks by its own timetable in Washington, one that pre-dates democracy. It is a schedule set on thousands of battlefields, where the most dangerous time of day is just before sunrise, when it is light enough to attack but still dark enough to conceal many movements. Even in Washington, the military rises in the darkness most of the year and is at work by dawn. The effect of this is that the military has the city largely to itself at that time of day.

Meet the Author

Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post Pentagon correspondent Thomas E. Ricks lectures widely to the military and is a member of Harvard University’s Senior Advisory Council on the Project on U.S. Civil-Military Relations. He is the author of the bestselling book Making the Corps. He lives outside Washington, D.C., with his wife and children.

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Soldier's Duty: A Novel 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Though written from the 'outside', this book does an excellent job at displaying the nuances of modern military leadership. Quite prophetic in describing the rise (and fall) of senior military leaders, Thomas E. Ricks does a great job of describing the role of duty in the life of an officer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books about the military I have ever read. Once you start reading, you will not want to stop. Even though I did not like all the stereotypes in the book, based on my ten years in the military, I have to admit that the author very accurately portrays the military, its members, and their attitudes. The book, set in 2004, tells the story of how several military members deal with controversial policies and missions dictated to them by the White House. As you read the book, the characters¿ ethical conflicts of duty versus loyalty, duty versus honesty, and duty versus honor raise the stakes to the point of life and death. Life and death for the characters as well as life and death of good order and discipline of the armed forces. There is nothing in this book that is unbelievable. To the contrary, many of the conflicts and debates contained within this book have already taken place. That fact makes the conflicts in the book that have not taken place yet, all the more believable. This is a must read for members of the military!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Outstanding work that deals with the conflict officers regarding duty and doing what's moraly right. For a while, you don't know what side to take...until later in the book where a plot turn gives the reader a clear choice. I found that to be unfortunate, and I wish Ricks would have had Ames take another action. Could be a good study on a soldier's obligations to obey orders vs. doing what you believe is moraly correct.