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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Thomas Young on The Mullah's Storm

When writing fiction, your best work may come from what scares you the most: you take pen in hand and imagine the worst. When I first flew into Afghanistan, what scared me the most wasn't the thought of getting shot down and killed. It was the thought of getting shot down and not killed.

For most aviators, an encounter with the enemy usually happens in the form of lights streaming up from the earth. It has an air of unreality about it, almost like a video game. If those lights don't hit you, they don't hurt you. But what if you had an airplane blown out from under you and you met the enemy on his terms, in his territory? What would you face on the ground? What would your buddies need you to do? Under conditions of extreme duress and hardship, would you make decisions you could live with later on?

When I went to the Air Force Survival School years ago, an instructor gave a briefing I have never forgotten. He said, "Every Air Force flier shot down in Vietnam, captured, and dragged to the Hanoi Hilton sat right here in this auditorium and thought, 'It won't happen to me.'"

I still think it won't happen to me. But if it did? The Mullah's Storm is an imagining of that fear.

The book's action begins with the downing of a C-130 Hercules in Afghanistan, set at an indeterminate time in the war. It could have happened in 2001, or it might not have happened yet. A shoulder-fired missile blows my main characters out of their normal world and onto a journey that forces them to disregard personal safety and even personal loyalties for the sake of the mission.

My fears have become reality for some service members, and the characters in The Mullah's Storm are composites of people I have known. One of those people was an early mentor and squadron mate who had served as a Marine Corps helicopter crew chief in Vietnam. He enjoyed target shooting, and I assumed such an avid marksman would also be a hunter. But when I invited him to go duck hunting, he declined. He said, "When I was shot down in Vietnam, I learned what it felt like to be hunted. I have never hunted anything since."

Though my colleague's Vietnam ordeal echoes through the book, the characters draw their motivations and mindsets from veterans of the current wars. These service members, all volunteers, come from the best-educated military ever fielded. American troops have more skill and training than ever before, and their leaders have more confidence in them. They have more individual responsibility, and in extremis, more ability to act alone when necessary. They are not cynical, but neither are they naïve about their missions and the mistakes of those who send them on those missions.

Another difference with today's military is the greater contributions of women. Their presence as part of the team no longer raises eyebrows; in fact, it is taken for granted. My novel's female character, Sergeant Gold, was inspired by the women with whom I have served. Those real-life military women include some of the best pilots, navigators, and flight engineers I've known.

Other characters are from a U.S. Army Special Forces team. As a C-130 flight engineer, I often had the pleasure of working with Special Forces. Sometimes we flew SF troops during their parachute training, dropping freefall jumpers from so high that they breathed from an oxygen bottle on the way down. In addition to their other military skills, each SF soldier is fluent in a foreign language. Those guys are very smart and very tough, and I've seen them face awful conditions with spirit and humor.

I could have set this novel, or one very much like it, in Iraq or even Bosnia or Kosovo. But during airlift missions over Afghanistan, I was struck by the stark beauty of the country as seen from the air: snows of the Hindu Kush, great distances of mountains unmarked by so much as a dirt path, cold and clear night air lit by a meteor shower, rural expanses so dark the stars appeared not as scattered points but as silver dust.

The book contains scenes of violence, and sadly, that reflects reality, both past and future. Afghanistan may never completely rid itself of insurgents and warlords, jihadists and opium traffickers. The Taliban will not show up on the deck of the USS Missouri to sign an instrument of surrender. Even if American forces end combat operations tomorrow, the country will need humanitarian assistance and airlift support into the foreseeable future. Whether U.S. troops stay or go, this will be a long war for the Afghans.

Though the idea for The Mullah's Storm had been knocking around in my head for a while, it took an in-flight emergency to get me started on the actual writing. In August of 2007, I was part of a crew flying a routine airlift mission into Osan Air Base, South Korea. On the way, we lost a hydraulic system and a generator. We declared an emergency and landed safely, greeted by the flashing lights of the crash trucks. When we taxied to the ramp, the aircraft dripped a trail of hydraulic fluid.

After we shut down, we learned we'd be stuck for days, waiting for parts. So with time to kill at Osan, one morning I went to the Base Exchange and bought a yellow legal pad and a cup of coffee. I sat on a couch in aircrew billeting, and I wrote at the top of the pad, "Chapter One."

--Thomas W. Young

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

At the start of Young's well-crafted first novel, a transport plane carrying a high-value prisoner, a radical mullah, is forced down in the rugged Hindu Kush of Afghanistan. Maj. Michael Parson, the plane's co-pilot, and female Master Sergeant Gold, an interpreter who speaks Pashto, must brave a ferocious winter storm and reach a nearby Special Forces team with the mullah, but they wind up in the hands of Taliban insurgents. The SF team rescues Parson, but the Taliban escape, taking the mullah and the translator in opposite directions. The team must try to recapture the mullah, but Parson can't abandon Gold because "You love your comrades more than you hate your enemies." Young (The Speed of Heat: An Airlift Wing at War in Iraq and Afghanistan) draws on his own war experiences for verisimilitude, which, along with believable characters and an exciting plot, makes this one of the better thrillers to come out of the Afghan theater.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: A Parson and Gold Novel
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley; Reprint edition (June 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425242250
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425242254
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (128 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #239,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Thomas W. Young has logged nearly 4,000 hours as a flight engineer for the Air National Guard in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, and elsewhere, including Latin America, the Horn of Africa, and the Far East. Military honors include two Air Medals, three Aerial Achievement Medals, and the Air Force Combat Action Medal. He continues to serve with the Air National Guard as a Senior Master Sergeant.
He holds degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and studied writing there and at the Sewanee Writers' Conference, among other places. He is also the author of the oral history The Speed of Heat: An Airlift Wing at War in Iraq and Afghanistan, and contributed to the anthology Operation Homecoming, edited by Andrew Carroll.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Jason Frost VINE VOICE on August 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Oh yes. If I had to sum up my feelings in two words, those would be it. Before I read this book I was coming off a three week summer vacation and I was looking for books from my "go-to" authors. You know, the one who never let you down because all of their books rock? While doing that I came across this one... and here is where I stopped. As you read you wonder why this story seems so "real". I won't give away the answer but with a tad bit of research you'll find out. Modern military-thriller readers will tear through this like a Hummer H1 through the deserts of the Middle East. While both of my parents proudly served in the Army, I have no clue of all the Army lingo and special language used to convey even a simple, "move to the left". Mr. Young handles it deftly without making you feel like a newbie.

There is plenty of suspense to go along with the action as we follow Major Parson and Ms. Gold through some of the most unforgiving terrain this side of hell. They also have to fight some of the most evil and despicable people this side of hell. You're going to hear a lot of words like "thrilling", "gripping", "exciting", "heart-pounding", "captivating", and "fascinating" to describe this novel. And you know what? They'd all be right. You know you're into a book when your heart starts pumping fast to either 1. catch up with the action or 2. to match beats with the character's. Mr. Young also tells this story with some pretty raw emotion too. While certain people would like us to behave like mindless robots and have no feelings toward people trying to KILL US, Major Parson has (good or bad) other ideas. I found myself shouting "YES"!! when he would allow himself to be human, even for just a moment.
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49 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Timothy J. Mccarthy VINE VOICE on August 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A C-130 carrying a high-value prisoner is shot down shortly after taking off from Bagram AB in Afghanistan, leaving its survivors to both keep their prisoner alive and escape & evade the pursuing Taliban forces. A second enemy, a winter storm with extreme cold conditions, keeps rescue operations grounded while making survival even more challenging.

The action here is paramount and fast moving. The weapons, tactics, and combat descriptions are authentic and believable. The severe Afghanistan landscape is richly described and provides a fascinating backdrop to the story. Character development, oddly enough, is pretty much nonexistent. You don't expect to learn much about the prisoner, a radical mullah, and that's fair enough. But we get no background on Sgt Gold, the Army interpreter, and very little on C-130 navigator Maj Parson, our protagonist. And credibility suffers a bit as Parson exhibits Dirk Pitt like superhuman abilities. With a broken wrist, broken ribs, inadequate clothing, and no sleep, he keeps up with a Special Forces team over impossible terrain.

So much for quibbles, it's an absolutely great read right up until you get to the last chapter. Or I should say, until you get to the end of chapter 21, where things are all coming together nicely. Key players are dead or severely wounded, an air strike is called, Parson hunkers down, and it's time for either a tragic last stand or a spectacular victory. Turn the page, looking to start chapter 22, and instead you get . . . "Acknowledgements". YGBSM!!! It is flat inexcusable to lead the reader along for 273 pages, getting deeply invested into the story and characters, and then just leave things hanging. Until then, I was debating on whether this is a 4-star or 5-star book, and leaning toward the latter.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Archie Mercer VINE VOICE on August 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Mullah's Storm by author Thomas W. Young, writing his first fictional novel, is a story of survival and rage set in Afghanistan sometime between 9/11 and now. The main character, Major Michael Parson, is an navigator on a C-130 Hercules Transport plane that is shot down right after take off while carrying a captured Taliban Mullah, or Cleric, out of the country. After the crash landing Parson and Army Interpreter Sergeant Gold escape on foot with the Mullah in tow in the hope that they can hang on to their prisoner until rescue comes. In their way are Taliban insurgents bent on freeing their Spiritual leader and a massive snowstorm that grounds all rescues attempts.

The book starts off very quickly (the plane is shot down on page 4) and never let's up on the pace. Since the Author has served in Afghanistan and Iraq as a member of the Air National Guard the book has a very realistic feel to it. Parson's personality is written to rotate from shock (this can't happen to me!) to fear, then to rage as he finds the headless body of one of the other crash survivors. Throughout the book we see Parson slowly evolve from a downed Airman to a warrior bent on successfully completing his mission. While he may have been written a little too strong in how he copes with the difficult situations it actually works. Be aware, the violence is constant in the book. It is written to be brutal but at least it is never truly graphically described.

There is one issue with the book that prevents me from rating this as five stars. The book never really ends, it just stops. Although some books can successfully have an open ending, meaning not all plot lines are resolved, here nothing is resolved. I was very surprised when the story just simply stopped.
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