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Green on Blue: A Novel Hardcover – February 17, 2015
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month for February 2015: Green on Blue unravels the complexities of the Afghan war, then dissolves it all into the brutal heartache of reality – where home is a battlefield, fighting is a job, vengeance is a moral right, and war is “a racket…it had no sides. Each was the same as the other.” Aziz, an Afghan boy at the beginning of the novel, has lost nearly everything: Taliban forces killed his parents, and his older brother is left crippled when U.S. forces clash with militant ones. Alone, in need of money and seeking revenge, he enlists in the Special Lashkar, a militia funded by Americans to fight local insurgents. Aziz rises through the ranks, learns to kill, and discovers the nefarious profiteering, oppression and cultural beliefs that contrive this never ending war. A decorated Afghan and Iraq war veteran, Elliot Ackerman’s empathetic portrayal of individuals, factions, and the reasons they fight is fierce and haunting. With crisp, uncompromising prose, Green on Blue joins the canon of contemporary war literature and leaves you breathless. – Al Woodworth
Review of Elliot Ackerman's Green on Blue by Ben Fountain
Photo credit: Thorne Anderson
Photo credit: Peter Van Agtmael
"The militants fought to protect us from the Americans," says Aziz, the young Afghan narrator of Green on Blue, "and the Americans fought to protect us from the militants, and being so protected, life was very dangerous." Aziz would know better than many: first he loses his parents and his home to the war, then his cherished older brother is left permanently disabled by a bombing, a chain of events that leads Aziz to join the Special Lashkar, an indigenous army sponsored by the Americans to combat insurgents in the Afghan countryside. And so begins Aziz’s life as a soldier in a savage, complex war where the requisites of nang and badal honor and revenge, sometimes serve, and at other times clash with, the larger goals of the Americans and their Afghan allies and enemies.
War: one could do worse than define it as the collision of chaos theory with the law of unintended consequences. Aziz discovers that what he wants from the war isn’t nearly so simple and pure as it once seemed, and indeed, the war itself is gradually revealed to be ghabban, a racket, with the blond-haired, blue-eyed American soldier “Mr. Jack” providing the money and arms that keep the whole bloody business going. “Some wars only feed themselves,” says Atal, the sometime enemy, sometime ally of Aziz. “They cannot be won, only starved.”
If we want to understand anything about this war we’ve been fighting for thirteen years--a war that keeps spinning off greater and greater chaos, and more black consequence than even the most cynical pacifist might have predicted--then Ackerman’s unflinching novel is an excellent place to start. Part of the genius of this book is the sheer power of the storytelling, thanks to the immersive effect of Aziz’s voice and the keenness with which he observes and ponders all that comes his way. What we witness in Aziz is the wisdom of the survivor: clear-eyed, stony, unsparing. But perhaps the greater part of this novel’s genius lies in the grinding, almost inevitable logic of Aziz’s ultimate act, the fatal "green on blue" of the title. How could he do otherwise in a war with "no cause . . . at least none larger than oneself?" All the politicians’ cheerleading of the past thirteen years, the p.r., the fine and pious phrases that seek to sanitize the shedding of more and more blood, are shown for the fraud they are by the truths of Elliot Ackerman’s extraordinary novel.
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Top Customer Reviews
From the opening page of this excellent novel, the ground work is laid immediately. Loyalties frequently shift by the local fighters in the small villages. The heritage of the Afghans is explored with aplomb. From badal (revenge) and nang (honor) to ghabben (type of war), the author takes the reader on a winding trip through centuries of traditions that are still intact. As one may expect, motivation is increased by the 'greasing of hands' and money is a most powerful motivator. Corruption and greed also play a pivotal role in this story.
Aziz is conflicted at times and I felt his need to save his brother and Fareeda weighed heavily on his soul. 'Is it possible to love something you weren't trying to save?' is a powerful question. The issue of trust also surfaces frequently.
Personally, I felt empathy while reading about the training in the Special Lashkar facility. And, also hungry and cold for the young boys that were enduring this during the winter months.Read more ›
Though the book centers on the American conflict, it begins with a brief introduction that sets us in a land that has known seemingly endless conflicts with myriad belligerents, be they tribesman or Soviets, Taliban or Americans. The narrator's parents fall victim to an ambiguous belligerent, emphasizing the confusing senselessness of this endless struggle. He and his older brother, a young man seemingly destined for great things, are left to fend for themselves, to form their own sort of tribe and fight to eke out an existence. However, his brother is soon injured in a market bombing, becoming incapable of supporting himself, and the narrator must join the fight for revenge and honor against the warlord who is said to have ordered the attack...and to earn his brother's stay in hospital.
Yet, this is no simple story of revenge. It is an intricate exploration of what revenge means in an environment without few easy targets. We do not focus on heinous acts of the Taliban or Jihadis, but instead on the motivations of the more ubiquitous "regular" folks who are drawn into conflict often against their wishes.Read more ›
In the past dozen or so years there has been a literal landslide of books, both fiction and non-fiction, coming out of the current wars in the Middle East, and many of them have been penned by its returning veterans. I have read at least a couple dozen of them, some very good, some not so good; but I have nothing but the utmost respect for what these men - and some women too - have endured in the service of our country.
Elliot Ackerman has survived several combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and currently works as a war correspondent based out of Istanbul. With his first book, GREEN ON BLUE, Ackerman has attempted something very different from most of the current crop of war books. His novel is told from the point of view of "the other," in this case, an Afghan. His fictional narrator, Aziz, is a young Afghan soldier in a special militia, drawn deviously into a war where the enemy keeps shifting sides. The story is told entirely in his words; there is no other point of view. He gives us a stark portrait of a culture characterized by blood feuds and revenge in a country beaten down by decades of continuous war. Aziz and his brother Ali, orphaned by war, belong to a generation that has never known anything but war, bloodshed and betrayals. This much is clear: things will not end well.
After reading several glowing reviews and complimentary blurbs from a number of very impressive sources, many of them writers whose books I have very much enjoyed, I was eager to read GREEN ON BLUE. So I am reluctant to be the lone naysayer on the merits of the book. Because I wanted so much to like this book. I didn't. Perhaps it's because I am most drawn to character-driven novels.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Really good book. Coming from an American author, it's funny how it's not at all focused on American characters, except for one handler that rarely shows up. Read morePublished 10 days ago by WiltDurkey
A book about Afghanistan told from the perspective of ....an afghan. From his words I think I am beginning to understand that place and why it is in constant turmoil. Read morePublished 12 days ago by DJ 815
Shows how we are being taken to the cleaners in Afghanistan because we don't know what we are doing. Author had five tours and is a brilliant guyPublished 1 month ago by Eliezar ben Label
At first, it seemed odd and maybe even inappropriate to take the perspective of two young Afghans, but Ackerman does a nice job of approaching the narrative with humility and... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Allen E Rogers
Green on Blue is a well-organized nice written book but, unfortunately, does not climb to pass the surface and achieve to deeper levels of engaging the audience. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Kami
I wasn't sure what to expect, however the author gives you a perspective of the wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere that provides insight as to the affects of war on the people in... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Wanda
Fairly good book, and a good introduction to the very messy Afghan wars, from the perspective of an Afghan soldierPublished 3 months ago by barry
Astonishing insight into the "enemies" the author fought against in Afghanistan. Would that more of our military men and women understood the dynamics beautifully set forth... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Ramona Holland