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The Profession
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42 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Profession is a book about a projected future of America and warfare, as told from the perspective of a soldier and his connection to his commanding officer.

In the near-future, military responses to terrorism are increasingly waged by the rules (or lack thereof) of the local combatants, rather than the Western rules of war. Corporations ascend in influence and power as nation-states decline.

Unrest in the Middle East and other oil producing regions continues as the world powers position themselves to ensure continued resources.

Against this backdrop, Steven Pressfield tells the story of Gen. Salter, a military commander who falls from grace and becomes as a mercenary commander. The perspective for the story is that of a soldier who has long served under Gen. Salter, and is so close as to be considered a son of the General.

Because the story is told from the soldier's perspective, the thoughts and motivations of Gen. Salter are often hidden from the reader, and the reader is a witness to the events, a method Pressfield employed in the terrific "Gates of Fire."

This book is an interesting projection on where the world could go in the next 25 years in a global economy competing for dwindling resources and with traditional American concepts of life contrasting with the very different perspective and motives of those in other countries, particularly tribal cultures and developing countries.

At it heart, this book is a story about the recognition that the traditional American values are challenged by the changing times, economy, and exposure to other cultures.

I will say that I found the ending a bit choppy, but as you can see, it was not such a detraction that I lowered the rating I gave the book.

Pressfield, who has written a number of books on classical military history, tells his similarly classical story in the near future, but does so in the readable, interesting style that recalls his best books.

This is worth your read.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I picked up Steven Pressfield's latest novel, The Profession, on Amazon Vine this month. It sounded like a great premise... move 20 years into the future and look at war as a function of big business. Buy your mercenary forces and leave the fighting to the "professionals." The imagery and settings were excellent, but the storyline seemed to wander. I was having problems with the "so what" aspect of the book...

The overall plot involves a major conflict in the Middle East (where else?) which has the whole world trying to figure out exactly what and who is driving the conflict and bankrolling Force Insertion, which is the top mercenary business on the globe. A disgraced American general, James Sather, is running that show, and his overall goal isn't necessarily the same as the people and leaders who hired him. As the conflict escalates and unfolds, it becomes apparent that Sather's actions are designed to put him into a position of ultimate power, erasing nearly 300 years of checks and balances. The narrator of the story, Gent Gentilhomme, a soldier serving under the general, is the only person who is in a position to do something about it, and he's not entirely sure as to what the correct path should be.

From the perspective of the detail of the story, Pressfield is excellent. The writing is gritty and hard, and it matches the type of action I'd expect to see in a war story. It was as if I had been dropped into the middle of a conflict. The storyline didn't seem to have that same action and momentum, however. I was having a hard time trying to understand why things were happening and where the story was going. I didn't have the feeling that I had to keep turning pages to find out what would happen next. Even once the end game had played out, my general feeling was "meh"...

The Profession was an interesting read for imagining what war might be like in the future. But as a story, it lacked the spark that made it a compelling novel.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Amazon Vine Review Program
Payment: Free
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon April 18, 2011
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Profession is simultaneously a science fiction novel (to the extent that it's set in the near future), a military novel (although most of the fighting is done by private armies), and a political thriller. The novel works best as a cautionary tale; as a representative of any (or all) of those genres, it's lacking.

In the 2032 imagined by Steven Pressfield, private mercenary forces, primarily serving foreign governments and multinational petroleum companies, are all over the Middle East. Gilbert "Gent" Gentilhomme, who believes himself to be the reincarnation of an ancient warrior, works for Force Insertion, the largest of the private armies. Told in the first person from Gent's perspective, the story begins with furious action as Gent leads a team of mercenaries on a rescue mission. Gent's next mission (in Tajikistan) is assigned by the CEO of Force Insertion, James Salter, a former general and current narcissist who has an agenda beyond that of Force Insertion's customer base.

Cautionary tales can make compelling fiction (1984 is an enduring example); The Profession misses that mark. About a third of the way in, the action halts so that Pressfield can explain the rise of private armies. A longish chapter in the middle recounts Gent's African exploits while he was still a Marine and explains Salter's military downfall -- a Heart of Darkness diversion that contributes little to the plot and adds to character development in only a superficial way. This is followed by another longish chapter that relates the (future) history of the Middle East which, like the (past) history, has a lot to do with war, oil, and American and Saudi politics. All of this mood-deadening exposition acts as a drag on a story that depends on action to justify its billing as a thriller. As a warning of a possible future, these chapters could form the foundation of a great essay; they just don't integrate well into the novel.

The book becomes interesting when Salter decides to engage in a rather aggressive act of nation-building. Salter is a truly scary dude. He describes himself as a warrior who worships "the god of strife," a fighter who strides "into harm's way for no cause, no dream, no crusade, but only for the striding itself and for the comrades at my side." This is the kind of megalomaniac who starts wars solely because he likes war. Whether Salter's actions (and, more importantly, the reactions in the United States and the rest of the world) are plausible is questionable, but this is a work of fiction; I won't downgrade it for telling an unlikely story. I will, however, criticize Pressfield for creating characters who are stereotypes and for killing the novel's momentum in the middle chapters. I liked the beginning and the ending (it avoided the predictable finish that I was dreading) and I appreciated the story's cautionary value, but as a novel The Profession has serious problems. I would give The Profession 3 1/2 stars if Amazon made that option available.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2011
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
For fans of Steven Pressfield, expect something a bit different in this book. Unlike his previous historical fiction books such as Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae or Last of the Amazons or Killing Rommel: A Novel, this time Pressfield takes us the global battlefields of the near future. Meticulously researched (as you would expect from Mr. Pressfield), this scarily-realistic book takes a look at a future that may yet be: one in which wars are not only fought by national armies, but also by mercenary armies hired by mega-corporations to further their own agendas.

I have to admit, compared to other Pressfield novels,this book took a bit longer for me to really get into. For the first several chapters, I was wondering where the book was going. The longer I read it the more engaging it became, though. As I rocketed along the roller coaster ride to the finale, I was sad to see the book end, and that's always a compliment to the author.

The book is a good read, and I'd categorize this tale as a definite "man-book." I'd recommend it to any guys who enjoy reading military fiction and to fans of Mr. Pressfield's other novels. Just be aware that this is going to be a different sort of tale than Mr. Pressfield's other novels.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I am one of Pressfield's original fans as I loved "Gates of Fire." I am enthralled with the ancient world, especially the Spartans. But I found that even a book such as "Killing Rommel," in Pressfield's deft hands interests me.

The same goes for "The Profession." I don't normally read Tom Clancy or John LeCarre or even science fiction. Yet, in "The Profession," Pressfield takes us into the future, 2032. His protagonist, Gent, is a mercenary soldier in a world without armies, only mercenaries who take on the rabble armies of various exploding flash points of political and economic violence.

Gent travels from Africa, where atrocities are carried out, to the Middle East, where a man can love and feed his enemy before shooting him in the head.

The action is fast and furious, Pressfield connects with the world that may be by placing us in a world much too much like our own, especially in these weeks after our own strike force hit Osama Bin Laden's compound in Pakistan. It is almost prescient in its worldview.

This is an unsettling read of a future that could hit us and hit us hard.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 26, 2011
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Like other reviewers, I had high hopes for this latest novel from Steven Pressfield. The only other novel of his I have read is the classic Gates of Fire, which is superb. His other novels I have given as gifts to my father, who has given favorable reviews of them all. However, I was disappointed in this novel because it was touted as "A Thriller", but it was not very thrilling.

The novel takes an interesting look at the near future, in which mercenaries play a large part in fighting the world's conflicts and wars. The author also shares interesting insights into such subjects as the mind and psyche of professional soldiers, the realities of tribal societies, and how western soldiers must interact with these tribal societies since those are the areas in which most of our modern conflicts are being fought. Therefore, the backdrop of this novel is interesting and insightful.

Unfortunately, the main plot about a charismatic, MacArthur-like leader, General Salter, plotting revenge on those that exiled him, falls short. General Salter plans to seize the world's largest oilfields, execute a coup, and become Commander-in-Chief of the United States, thereby shredding the Constitution and ending political freedom as we know it in the United States. The only person who can stop him is an officer nicknamed "Gent", who is one of the general's trusted insiders. However, the plot is ultimately buried in the geopolitical analysis and is not developed enough to engage the reader. The characters could also use some fleshing out.

In summation, this novel is an interesting look at a possible near future with great perceptiveness into how conflicts are being waged in regions dominated by tribal mindsets. However, while there is some action it is not enough and not as intense as the author's previous work.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 31, 2011
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Profession by Steven Pressfield
In a not too far distant future America has gotten fed up with wasting their young. Mercenaries have become the popular method of dealing with international crisis. A charismatic general has become the hope of millions. Is he the hope for the nation or a despot in the wings?

The most frightening something about this book is its believability. The weapons technology is an obvious extension of of current technology. The crises faced in the book are also an obvious extension of current world disorder. Sadly it is easy to see how a charismatic leader could be both a savior and a disaster.

There were good characterizations and enough action for practically anyone. Don't get discouraged with the overly verbose details and descriptions early in the book. All the advanced technology and weapons simply come down to the relationship between men.

This book is certainly worth reading and is a sobering appraisal of a possible path for OUR nation.

I highly recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon June 9, 2012
Another reviewer on Amazon.com has already spotted the several dimensions that this book explores: techno-thriller, military science fiction, a cautionary tale of the future, and, in particular, of America's future more than anything else, but also the personal story of a "lost" soldier who becomes a 21th century mercenary and is torn between what is left of his ideals and his deep sense of loyalty towards his brothers in arms and his commander officer.

The last theme is one that Pressfield has already got us rather used to. You find it in particular in his "Tides of War" and his "The Afghan Campaign". There are even a couple of hints to these pieces of historical fiction in this one, for instance the passing reference to a sergeant named Telamon, from Akadia in the USA - the very same place and name as that of a mercenary solddier that pops up here and there in Pressfiled's novels taking place in Antiquity.

Another familiar element is Pressfield's ability to make the story gripping and ripping, so that, at least at times, it seems almost "real" for the reader, especially for the action and combat scenes. Although, to be honest, I am no soldier, so I could probably not tell to what extent the story is plausible anyway, the way the operations are presented correspond to what I would imagine them to be like.

What is more original for Pressfield, is the story which takes place in 2032, with numerous "flash-backs" of events that have taken place since 2016. The period has seen the rise of Private Military Companies (PMCs) - mercenaries in other words - to the extent that these - and one of them in particular - have become a major force capable of fielding tens of thousands of soldiers. Their major field of operations is the Middle East and they are employed by a range of States and multinational corporations, especially oil companies and large international banks. America seems to have largely pulled back its forces from the Middle East and concentrates on "Homeland Security" after another dreadful terrorist attack on its soil and a highly publicised scandal that has taken place in Africa and has tarnished the reputation of its armed forces and of the US Marine Corp in particular.

Contrary to another reviewer on Amazon.com, I found this geopolitical piece interesting, even if not always entirely convincing or credible. The story is made up of bits pieced together and taken from various conflicts that have taken place since the 1990s, especially in Africa and the Middle East. The story taking place in Zamibia, and its multiple atrocities, for instance, seems to be a cross between the wars and massacres in Liberia and Sierra Leone, with the "long sleeve" and "short sleeve" amputations, in particular, and those that took place in Rwanda and in Congo (ex-Zaïre, were, despite UN forces, some atrocities still tale place). However, US forces were not deployed in any of these conflicts. Also, existing PMCs are not almost exclusively made up of ex-US soldiers, along with a sprinkling of Brits, Australians and South Africans. Nowadays, they happen to include ex-soldiers coming from a much wider range of countries, including European countries. I won't comment on the weaponry used: another reviewer has done so already. However, that a single PMC would be able, or even allowed, to take over half a dozen others and become a near monopoly seems, for the moment at least, rather unlikely for at least a couple of reasons. Some PMCs are multinational, but many are not and may even be VERY national indeed. More importantly perhaps, governments from so-called rich countries (say the G8 including Russia, to keep it short) have close contacts with, and keep an eye on "their" respective SMCs composed on "their" nationals. This is where the "outsourcing" comes in. Some governments are ready to outsource some functions to the private sector, such as the protection of pipelines or of corporate executives and staff. Others, at least officially, have banned by law such companies altogether. All might use them for deniable operations that have more to do with secret services than waging an open war. In 20 years time, we might have reached a situation familiar to that described by Pressfield. For the moment, we are rather far from this.

Another limit to this book is the theme of America's decline and increasing vulnerability. These are very topical, of course. In the book, however, they may be somewhat overblown and not entirely realistic, although this is not necessarily a problem since the book is fiction. First, I have been hearing sporadically about the decline of the United States for a very long time. I learned in school that there was a decline after the Viêtnam war. I heard about it again during the 80s (Japan was the menace at the time) and at the end of the 80s, with the Savings and Loans debacle. Then, as the USRR collapsed, I didn't hear about it at all (quite the contrary in fact) for the next 10 years. Since 2000, the next menace is supposed to be China, which is growing about 4 to 5 times faster than America. While true, and while the US has not yet fully recovered (far from it), it is worthwhile remembering that China's GDP is still less than half that of the US and that its population, which is foiur times larger, is ageing very rapidly. Even assuming that China's GDP overtakes that of America in ten years time (a rather big assumption), GDP per head in America will still be four times that of China. So, is this decline? Perhaps, but only in relative terms. It is also a slow one and it may not be as irresistible as it seems.

Finally, there is the US dependance on oil. Oddly enough, Pressfield has not been innovative here. He has not taken into account the latest breakthrough in technology, nor the ones still to come over the next 20 years. He comes up with fuel worth 8 and then 14 dollars a gallon because of events taking place in the Middle East. Interestingly, given the potential for exploiting existing fields both on land and of the US coasts (and without even mentioning whatever oil could be discovered in the next 20 years), America is becoming increasingly self-sufficient with regards oil and gas. THis is a situation that America has not known for about half a century. So the oil shock described in the book has a distinct 1970s or 1980s flavour to it, instead of being science fiction.

So, I very much liked this book. It is a superb read. It makes a lot of good points, although I do not know, for instance, whether the ridiculously low number of Ivy League graduates or Congessmen's children that have enlisted in the armed forces is true or not. Because I enjoyed it so much, I believe it is worth four stars, but I do not think that the very pessimistic (and sometimes a bit populist) picture that it draws of America in 20 years time is realistic. At least - and this is another of the book's merits - I hope it is not. Anyway, it is up to this country's citizens to make sure that this picture does not come true and this is - of course - the whole purpose of Pressfield's cautionary tale.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2012
The Profession's first half was wildly entertaining. Set in 2032, the author does a neat job speculating what has happened in the previous two decades. It should come as no surprise that geopolitics and economic greed factor in, as well as, continued complexity and instability in the Middle East. At its core, it is a story of a U.S. coup d'etat told through an American soldier-turned-mercenary...Gilbert "Gent" Gentilhomme (a very corny last name given his character and the plot). In the future, military contractors are not only necessary but they also enjoy a degree of respect that "the profession" does not have today.

If the author had focused on more intrigue versus blunt conflict and a near-religious adherence to the soldier's code, this could have been a much stronger novel. When it is like "Seven Days in May" it is great but then it degrades into a hodge-podge and ultimately peters out altogether. Still, if not taken too seriously, The Profession provides entertainment and some fun commentary on our world today. I particularly appreciated critiques of the communication industry, Pressfield's imagined future mergers of current media companies, and the campy warrior speeches.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2011
Probably because I'm a girl, it takes me 75 pages or so to get into one of Pressfield's books, but true to his form once I got started I couldn't put it down. This is a thought provoking thriller of real possibilities. Somewhere I read it described as a "techno thriller." I think it's more character than gizmo driven, although it has lots of gizmos too. Through his fiction he accurately delivers the morally bruising environment of war and challenges us to think about the rise and decline of civilizations.
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