War is insanely exciting.... Don't underestimate the power of that revelation,” warns bestselling author and Vanity Fair contributing editor Junger (The Perfect Storm). The war in Afghanistan contains brutal trauma but also transcendent purpose in this riveting combat narrative. Junger spent 14 months in 2007–2008 intermittently embedded with a platoon of the 173rd Airborne brigade in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley, one of the bloodiest corners of the conflict. The soldiers are a scruffy, warped lot, with unkempt uniforms—they sometimes do battle in shorts and flip-flops—and a ritual of administering friendly beatings to new arrivals, but Junger finds them to be superlative soldiers. Junger experiences everything they do—nerve-racking patrols, terrifying roadside bombings and ambushes, stultifying weeks in camp when they long for a firefight to relieve the tedium. Despite the stress and the grief when buddies die, the author finds war to be something of an exalted state: soldiers experience an almost sexual thrill in the excitement of a firefight—a response Junger struggles to understand—and a profound sense of commitment to subordinating their self-interests to the good of the unit. Junger mixes visceral combat scenes—raptly aware of his own fear and exhaustion—with quieter reportage and insightful discussions of the physiology, social psychology, and even genetics of soldiering. The result is an unforgettable portrait of men under fire. (May 11)
From the Publisher
Riveting . . . Junger experiences everything [the soldiers] do-nerve-racking patrols, terrifying roadside bombings and ambushes, stultifying weeks in camp when they long for a firefight to relieve the tedium. Despite the stress and the grief when buddies die, the author finds war to be something of an exalted state: soldiers experience an almost sexual thrill in the excitement of a firefight-a response Junger struggles to understand-and a profound sense of commitment to subordinating their self-interests to the good of the unit. Junger mixes visceral combat scenes-raptly aware of his own fear and exhaustion-with quieter reportage and insightful discussions of the physiology, social psychology, and even genetics of soldiering. The result is an unforgettable portrait of men under fire.Publishers Weekly
The latest flexing of journalistic muscle from Vanity Fair contributor Junger . . . The author dives into the most perilous form of immersion journalism, attempting to create an unflinching account of frontline combat. The prototype of this approach is Michael Herr's peerless Dispatches (1977), a thoroughly unsentimental, grunt-level view of the Vietnam War's bloodiest years. Yet if Junger's dispatches from the fighting in Afghanistan solidify anything, it's that war American-style hasn't evolved much in the decades since Herr's book . . . As in The Perfect Storm (1997), Junger blends popular science, psychology and history with a breathlessly paced narrative . . . Harrowing.Kirkus
Embedded as a journalist in an infantry platoon of the U.S. 2d Batallion, Junger here tracks the unit's 15-month deployment at a desolate mountain outpost in eastern Afghanistan in 2007–08. Fighting is on foot, over rugged terrain, in a series of patrols and chaotic firefights interspersed with interminable periods of boredom. In a change from his earlier books (e.g., The Perfect Storm; A Death in Belmont), Junger here is an observer of the now, not simply a reporter of the past. Trying to capture in words the elements of combat, fear, and ennui through the eyes of the soldiers, he communicates with a level of objectivity that the soldiers cannot. Junger is there, in the moment, with them, but he can also of course pull back and give distance and perspective. Junger's work here is reminiscent of David Finkel's The Good Soldiers and Tim O'Brien's fictional The Things They Carried, yet his work is neither simple hands-on reportage nor a work of fiction. VERDICT Although ostensibly about combat in Afghanistan, War examines the raw, brutal reality of combat—period—and why men fight. More than anything else, soldiers fight for one another, and Junger paints them as humans, as heroes, as brothers. Highly recommended—not simply for those interested in military history but for all readers concerned with the human condition. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/10.]—Leslie Lewis, Duquesne Univ. Lib., Pittsburgh
Eugene Robinson - Washington Post
"It is a gripping account of how modern warfare is experienced by those who do the fighting, and its focus is that of a laser, not a floodlight . . . WAR is full of stories that prove the adage about all politics being local."
Dexter Filkins - New York Times Book Review
"Absorbing and original . . . Junger is aiming for more than just a boots-on-the-ground narrative of the travails of fighting men . . . . WAR strives to offer not just a picture of American fighting men but a discourse on the nature of war itself. This is no small ambition . . . He writes some beautiful sentences about this ugly world."
Marjorie Miller - Los Angeles Times
"With his blue-eyed, chiseled and starting-to-grizzle looks, Junger is just the specimen Hollywood would cast as a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan to ensure a box office hit...But to assume that Junger had easy access diminishes his reporting skills and his commitment to the story. At age 48, he's a generation older than most of the soldiers he accompanied into combat over the course of their 15-month deployment and who instinctively put up their guard against an outsider...The resulting book is written in the first person, but it is observational, offering no critique of the combat he witnessed, taking no position on the efficiency, logic or value of the war. He offers a close-up view of men and the raw elements of war: fear and courage, killing and death, love and brotherhood."