From Publishers Weekly
The West Point cadets Murphy follows through their baptism by fire are an admirable sample of young American men and women: intelligent, ambitious and intensely patriotic. Most come from career military families and hold conservative opinions. Murphy describes their four years at West Point with respect even when discussing their love lives and marriages. All yearn for battle, and most get their wish. The book's best passages describe the confusion of moving to Iraq or Afghanistan and fighting insurgents, for which they lack both training and equipment. All feel something is not right but concentrate on the job at hand; some inevitably die or are grievously wounded. In his classic, The Long Gray Line,
Rick Atkinson followed West Point's 1966 class for 20 years. With only five years' perspective, Murphy lacks Atkinson's depth and epic scope, but his work stands out from much current military reporting by avoiding editorializing about war. He confines himself to a skillful journalistic narrative of events that are gripping enough to hold any reader's attention. (Sept.)
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In his debut, Murphy chronicles the lives of representative 2002 graduates of the United States Military Academy. A protégé of celebrity journalist Bob Woodward, Murphy has military experience that may have helped him connect to his subjects and perhaps encouraged them to be open with him. In depicting this cohort of warriors, Murphy describes military specialties pursued by the newly commissioned officers, their romantic relationships, and their dispatch to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The biographies of the individuals, interrupted in their pre-graduation friendships as they scatter geographically, tends to strain narrative continuity as Murphy’s presentation shifts constantly from the officer to the spouse to the combat zones. It’s left to the reader to speculate what distinguishes this class from others in West Point’s history, such as the 1966 Vietnam soldiers profiled in Rick Atkinson’s classic The Long Grey Line (1989). Maybe the salient difference is between American society then versus now; unlike during Vietnam, few Americans have relatives at risk in Iraq and Afghanistan. Murphy bridges the gap with this introduction to West Pointers, both those who serve and those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Expect demand arising from the subject and multimedia publicity --Gilbert Taylor