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.
Like I said earlier, this is a fantastic book that will keep you from the first snippet of action, through the mind numbing cold, to hunt of the enemy that runs, until the "end". When I read books this good and see that it's an author's debut... I can only wonder who were the idiot publishers that told this guy "no".
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. But it gets 1-star, because as an unfinished book, I wouldn't recommend this to anybody. I read the pre-publication version, and very STRONGLY suggest that the author include a final chapter before this book goes final.
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. I kept going back to see if I missed something and then wondered, since I was reading an Advanced Reading Copy, if I was missing the final chapter. It left an unfinished feel to the whole book and was a little bit disappointing.
Other than that, the book is a great read. Exciting, gut-wrenching, and very realistic. I look forward to other fictional books from Thomas Young. Highly recommended!
on September 13, 2010
I thought The Mullah's Storm was excellently paced and I invested myself heavily in Parson and Gold. I devoured this book in just over three hours of voracious reading, as each conflict resolution pulled me deeper into the story. Gold and Parson's long journey culminates in a final conflict with a crafty antagonist, that left me both exhilirated and partially disappointed with the ending. I understand the ending, but the "popcorn" reader in me wanted more resolution with Parson.
I have already enthusiastically recommended this book to my friends, and am sending a signed copy to my father for his birthday. This is an excellent book from an author who I look forward to reading in the future.
So many excellent books have been written about so many wars. Many of them feature larger-than-life characters; few of them feature improbable heroes, the definition of what a true hero is, an average person doing remarkable things. This is one of the latter, Thomas W. Young's The Mullah's Storm.
The protagonist is a perfectly ordinary flight engineer aboard a C-130 Hercules. No romance of the plane hear like in the WWII sagas with the indomitable B-17, but a cargo plane. Major Michael Parson is just a guy who does his job. He doesn't dream about being a hero; he's not a fanatic, not a believer (I don't mean religiously but more in the way Joss Whedon used it in Serenity), but just a guy who wants to do his job. He's your next door neighbor.
With him on this flight are a prisoner, an aging, high-ranking Taliban mullah and his escort, Master Sergeant Gold. In the scene in which she is introduced we are told: "A woman in an Army uniform followed the prisoner." Gold is like this through the story, opaque. She is not described much beyond being average looking and "maybe thirty-five" with "blond hair" and an accent that sounded "like New England." Young never gives us a peek inside her head. We can judge her only through Parson's eyes, and Parson has no more luck breaching the veil than we do.
The entire story is told from Parson's perspective. He is the guy we know best. Young doesn't jump around with his perspective. We are often confused and in the dark and uncertain, just as is Parson himself. When the plane is shot down, Parson is cast into an unknown and uncertain world, that of the ground, in the towering Hindu Kush and in a blizzard. He is no longer on a plane, but cast adrift with the other survivors. He must not only struggle to survive, but to overcome his doubts and his fears, and to complete the mission, which is to get the mullah to where he can be questioned.
The narrative is crisp and sparing of details. Considering the wealth of experience Young brings to the table, he does an admirable job of avoiding the temptation of info-dumps. He tells us what we need to know, and sometimes frustratingly, nothing more than that. He moves the story along at a good clip. The dialogue is believable. You don't see these people struggling every minute to survive engaged in pointless small-talk. Suffice it to say, this is not the story Quentin Tarantino would have written.
Young knows his stuff, even if he doesn't flaunt it. As he says in his notes at the end of the book, "the characters in The Mullah's Storm are composites of people I've known" and unsurprisingly, "Sergeant Gold [was] inspired by women with whom I have served." This is what makes them so believable. They are not Rambo's but real American soldiers serving in realistic conditions and expressing realistic reactions to events. Parson must deal with his hardship from the context of his own upbringing and experiences, as, presumably, must Gold and other characters later introduced into the narrative. He knows mountains, he knows snow, he knows rifles from his days hunting; what he doesn't know is Afghanistan on the ground, or the language, or even much about the religion or people.
This is a splendid saga, a story of endurance and fortitude and determination, all the more compelling because even if it did not actually happen, it could have happened. It is believable through and through and has an internal consistency many such stories lack. It's a must read and it's a difficult book to put down. It made me shiver, not only because of the stark and realistic portrayal of a brutal winter, but because of the very real characters struggling for their lives.
I highly recommend it.
on November 28, 2010
This is definitely not the genre of novel that I typically read, but it caught my attention because of a relative in the military. I had a hard time getting past the torture, but was totally caught up in the chase, which was truly heart pounding. As a female reader, I must admit that I enjoyed the low-key intelligence of Sergeant Gold,as well as the fact that her gender is irrelevant to the story. And, by the way, unlike that of some other reviewers, in my opinion the ending is perfect; anything else, would have been contrived.
on October 16, 2010
As a former Mountain warfare and survival instructor, I can tell you this book hits a raw nerve. I have read very few books that have captured the reality in the way the book does. I read this book in two evenings because you do not want to put it down. I found myself reading until 3 am both nights.
If you want a peek into the fears faced by our military men and women this is a must read. If this is Mr. young's first Novel I can't wait to see his next.
I will sum it up in one word, WOW!
I have the feeling that my review is going to be in the minority - just look at all the cover blurbs - but I really didn't care for this book. Please note that my feelings about the book do NOT reflect my feelings about the men and women of our military in Afghanistan. I'm a veteran myself (peace time), and have a relative "somewhere in Afghanistan" right now.
I had very high expectations for it, as the setup is great: An Airman and a Soldier must transport a prisoner from the site of their crashed Aircraft across hostile territory to safety. Unfortunately, for me the author simply doesn't bring this scenario to convincing life. Here's how I see it:
- The Setup. Can't get better than this.
- The research. The equipment, locations, jargon and more are, with one exception, Clancyesque in their realism.
- The characters aren't fleshed out. I never got the feeling that I was reading about real people, just caricatures that the Author was pushing around on a chess board. I believed in the PROBLEM the characters faced, but I never felt that there was much more to the characters themselves. Part of the problem is that This book is written from a "limited first person omniscient style". That's a fancy way of saying that we know what the lead character, a Major in the US Airforce who served as Navigator on the downed flight, is thinking, but we don't know what anyone else is. This would be fine, except that there isn't much dialogue except for what is necessary to move the plot forward, so the motivations and feelings of all the other characters remain pretty much hidden.
- The dialogue is for the most part, terribly flat. There's one thing you'll find aplenty in the military, and it's wiseass remarks about whatever situation you're in. None of the characters ever utters anything funny, or even says anything truly memorable.
- The protagonist is an Ass. I'm a former Enlisted man, a "Spec 4", and this character reaffirms every stereotype we junior enlisted ever believed about officers. Here's an example: He believes that just because he's a Major, the Sergeant, arguably more experienced in Land warfare and local customs, should do what he says, without questioning. Period. Really? Really???? Even worse, he has a similar thought later about a Special Forces Captain, who DEFINITELY was more qualified to call the shots in a given situation. I believe in Command Structure, but if you don't want to hear alternate opinions when your ass is in a crack and a knowledgeable resource is available, you're one rank higher than you ought to be.
- The protagonist is an Ass, Part II. Throughout the book, he refers to the locals as "Ragheads", in both internal and external dialogue. Sloooowwlly, he comes to the realization that some Afghani soldiers aren't too bad, maybe. I'll grant that the author made a creative decision to make his protagonist somewhat racist, but if I'm going to be inside someone's head for a few hours of reading, I'd much prefer that it wasn't someone that I don't have to look down on.
- The "Oh Come On" effect - Suspension of Disbelief broken. I began to doubt the book when the 3 characters began wading up a stream in near-freezing water in the middle of a snow storm. The fact that they manage to survive the night outside, and even dry their clothing made it even worse. And that's not all - I won't get into particulars, but midway through the book, something happens that complicates life for the characters, and our protagonist finds himself able to do things that Rambo himself would admire. Impact for the final plot? None, but you do get about 30 pages of padding.
- Lack of clarity. Here are a two examples. At the beginning of the novel, the plane takes off and is in the air. As it is leveling off, it is hit. We don't know how high the plane is or how far it is from the base, until pages later, which is very frustrating as a reader. The characters know - we don't. Another example, later in the book there is a firefight. The Air Force Major uses a scoped rifle to shoot a character 700 yards away. 2 sentences later, he's crossed those 700 yards. The problem? For the previous few pages, the characters have been moving very carefully and slowly. Abruptly, the character crosses 1/3 of a mile of terrain with all kinds of people trying to shoot at him ~without comment~. That would have been a very long 700 yards to cross within the context of the story, but it wasn't portrayed.
...and there are more. Bottom line?
Good effort for a first time author, but it's really not deserving of all the high authorial praise that its getting. Why is it getting all that praise? I ~really~ have no idea.
(1) Going back to the days of "Hunt for Red October", I've not been a big of the military thriller genre
(2) Like the author, I've accumulated an alarmingly high number of flight hours in multi-engine military aircraft (maritime patrol, not transport).
(3) I'm writing this while working in Kabul.
So I may be a little harsher than the average reviewer.
I loved the concept of this book, and looked forward to diving in to it. Unfortunately, plot turns became a little too convenient towards advancing the story line early on, and stayed that way throughout.
If the protagonist had not conveniently grown up in hunting and hiking in the Rockies, then his short course of Air Force survival school would have made his adventure in the Hindu Kush much more challenging, he would have had far fewer chances to pick off bad guys at long range later in the story. There is an encounter with a wolf late in the story that may be metaphoric, but left me wondering: plane crash...blinding winter storm...insurgents...did he really need a wolf attack too?
Little is revealed about the mullah prisoner's interpreter, Sergeant Gold, and we learn little about navigator Major Parson other than his immediate personal struggle to come to terms with those who have died around him during this mission.
I wanted to know more about the people in the story, and less about the weather.
In the end, I couldn't suspend enough disbelief about the events of this book. Thomas Young's writing is crisp and almost spare, but I needed less narrative about the terrain and more insight into the characters.
on April 29, 2011
A tale so descriptive and real you can feel the frostbite set in, hear the sound of gunfire, smell the gunpowder, feel the anger, and understand the bravery. The characters in The Mullah's Storm are reflective of the heroes who have and are currently fighting in the middle east. A story that can bring anti-war activists to tears of thankfulness.