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Green on Blue: A Novel Hardcover – February 17, 2015

4.2 out of 5 stars 94 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

Ben Fountain

Photo credit: Thorne Anderson

Cheryl Strayed

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.

From School Library Journal

A different perspective on America's war in Afghanistan. Rather than examining themes of ideology or heroic battles, this novel sheds light on the microview, seen through the experience of Aziz, of a young soldier. The focus stays on those most affected—fighters on both sides and those caught in the middle. After his brother Ali is grievously injured in a Taliban mortar attack, the only way Aziz can pay for Ali's medical care is to join Commander Sabir's American-backed anti-Taliban militia. An equally strong motivator is the need to restore his nang (pride) by exacting badal (revenge) against those who injured his brother. Many men in the militia have joined for the same reason; their belief in badal makes it a useful tool for keeping Sabir's ranks full. The protagonist is committed but soon notices unusual connections among Sabir; Gazan, the leader of the opposing Taliban militia; and Atal, a resident of a village that Sabir and Gazan are fighting over. Aziz comes to realize the reason the fighting drags on has almost nothing to do with beliefs held on either side. As he understands the truth, he must make some hard decisions about the role he'll play going forward. The young man's efforts to sort out what he's told vs. the reality in front of him will resonate with teens. VERDICT Readers will appreciate the author's honest, direct, and complex exploration of powerful yet hidden motivations for war, especially because of the work's blurred lines between heroes and villains.—Carla Riemer, Claremont Middle School, CA

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (February 17, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476778558
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476778556
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #439,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Off Grid..and Loving it! TOP 500 REVIEWER on February 17, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A captivating and complex novel that delves deeply into the minds of those that continue to fight wars. Despite the futility that is apparent on all sides, corruption abounds and the politics of war do not cease. Aziz and his older brother Ali are survivors of an attack in their small village which wipes out most of the town. They leave and go to a small city and scrape up what little jobs they can find and sometimes they have to beg. School is most important to Ali and he is determined to have Aziz obtain an education. Unfortunately for the brothers, Ali suffers a horrendous injury in a bombing and is lucky to have survived - or maybe not. A man in a US uniform offers Aziz a way to pay for Ali's hospitalization and he accepts.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
Many excellent books have come from veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, predominantly from the latter in my experience. I'm thinking of books such as Redeployment and The Yellow Birds, both of which I enjoyed immensely. However, Green on Blue, also by a veteran of 5 tours in both countries, is a fantastic book that comes at you from the markedly different perspective of an Afghani youth. It is a story of revenge and honor, but also an exposition of how such violently emotional concepts can be transmuted into the more prosaic - and disturbing - idea of war as a mere profession, a path to, dare I say it, a better life.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
GREEN ON BLUE, by Elliott Ackerman.
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.
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