- Hardcover: 354 pages
- Publisher: Doubleday (July 18, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 038551641X
- ISBN-13: 978-0385516419
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (145 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #628,492 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Afghan Campaign: A Novel Hardcover – July 18, 2006
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Praise for Steven Pressfield
The Afghan Campaign
“History is the great teacher, and no one writes better historical fiction than Steven Pressfield. The Afghan war that was waged by Alexander the Great over 2,000 years ago is eerily similar to the one that is being fought today. This book should be required reading for anyone who wants to better understand what American and coalition forces are up against in one of history's most tribal and troubled regions.” —Vince Flynn
“An impressive scholar and gifted storyteller, Steven Pressfield is the finest military writer alive, bar none. I cannot recommend him too highly.” —Stephen Coonts
“Masterful and thrilling—an insightful and timely look back at a region and its warring tribes . . . with clear connections to the present day.” —W.E.B. Griffin
The Virtues of War
“Its expert pace, its vivid detail, its bone-crushing action, and its occasional piercing insights of sad eloquence make it an absolutely gripping read.” —Seattle Times
The Last of the Amazons
“Pressfield serves up not just hair-raising battle scenes . . . but many moments of valor and cowardice, lust and bawdy humor.” —Esquire
Tides of War
“Pressfield’s battlefield scenes rank with the most convincing ever written—you can almost feel the slash of sword on skin and sense the shattering mix of panic, bravery, blood lust and despair.” —USA Today
Gates of Fire
“Vivid and exciting . . . Pressfield gives the reader a perspective no ancient historian offers, a soldier’s-eye view . . . remarkable.” —New York Times Book Review
About the Author
steven pressfield is the author of the historical novels Gates of Fire, The Virtues of War, Tides of War, and Last of the Amazons. He lives in Los Angeles, California.
Top Customer Reviews
Not so Steven Pressfield, who repeatedly holds up the past as a mirror to our present--and never more devastatingly than in his latest and most brilliant novel, "The Afghan Campaign."
Matthias, a young Greek seeking glory and opportunity, signs up with the army of Alexander the Great. But the Persian Empire has fallen, and the days of conventional, set-piece battles where everyone can instantly tell friend from foe are over.
Alexander next plans to conquer India, but first he must pacify its gateway--Afghanistan. It is here, for the first time, that the Macedonians meet an enemy unlike any other. "Here the foe does not meet us in pitched battle," warns Alexander. "Even when we defeat him, he will no accept our dominion. He comes back again and again. He hates us with a passion whose depth is exceeded only by his patience and his capacity for suffering."
Matthias learns this early. In his first raid on an Afghan village, he's ordered to execute a helpless prisoner. When he refuses, he's brutalized until he strikes out with his sword--and then botches the job. But, soon, exposed to an unending series of atrocities--committed by himself and his comrades, as well as the enemy--he finds himself transformed.
It is not a transformation he expected--or relishes. He agonizes over the gap between the ideals he meant to embrace when he became a soldier--and the brutalities that have drained him of everything but a grim determination to survive at any cost.
Pressfield, a former Marine himself, repeatedly contrasts how noncombatants see war as a kind of "glorious" child's-play with how those who must fight it actually experience it. He creates an extraordinary exchange between Costas, an ancient-world version of a CNN war correspondent, and Lucas, a soldier whose morality is outraged at how Costas and his ilk routinely prettify the indescribable. It's a scene that could be lifted (though it isn't) straight from "Full Metal Jacket," where an editor for "Stars and Stripes" orders his correspondents to play up the upcoming visit of Ann-Margaret, while ignoring stories on American and South Vietnamese blunders and defeats.
And we know the truth of this exchange immediately. For we know there are doubtless brutalities inflicted by our troops on the enemy--and atrocities inflicted by the enemy upon our soldiers--that never make the headlines, let alone the TV cameras. We know, though we don't wish to admit, that, decades from now, thousands of these men will carry horrific memories to their graves. These memories will remain sealed from public view, allowing their fellow but unblooded Americans to sleep peacefully, unaware of the price that others have paid on their behalf.
Like the Macedonians (who call themselves "Macks"), our own soldiers find themselves serving in an all-but-forgotten land among a populace whose values could not be more alien from our own if they came from Mars. Instincitvely, they turn to one another--not only for physical security but to preserve their last vestiges of humanity. Pressfield is never more eloquent than when he puts into the words of his war-weary veteran, Lucas, the following:
"Never tell anyone except your mates. Only you don't need to tell them. They know. They know you. Better than a man knows his wife, better than he knows himself. They're bound to you and you to them, like wolves in a pack. It's not you and them. You are them. The unit is indivisible. One dies, we all die." Put conversely: One lives, we all live.
Pressfield has reached into the past to reveal fundamental truths about the present that most of us could probably not accept if contained in a modern-day memoir. These truths take on an immediate poignancy owing to our currently being at war in Afghanistan and Iraq. But they will remain just as relevant decades from now, when our young soldiers of today are old and retired.
This book could be--and has been--described as a sequel to Pressfield's "The Virtues of War: A Novel of Alexander the Great," which appeared in 2004. But it isn't. It is, in fact, its polar-opposite.
"Virtues" showcased the brilliant and luminous (if increasingly dark and explosive) personality of Alexander the Great, whose soaring rhetoric inspired men to hurl themselves into countless battles on his behalf. But "Afghan" thrusts us directly into the flesh-and-blood horrors created by that rhetoric: The horrors of men traumatized by an often unseen and always menacing enemy, and the horrors they must inflict in return if they are to survive in a hostile and alien world.
The book follows a young Macedonian youth named Matthias, who enlists as a mercenary in Alexander's army as it leaves the glories and supreme wealth of Persia. Matthias and his lifelong friend, Lucas, are eager to join up with relatives already in service and to partake in the triumphs of conquest. Yet, in Afghanistan, the foe will not fight a conventional battle. Using guerilla tactics and unspeakable acts of torture, the various tribes of the region, under the command of Spitamenes (who manages to outwit even Alexander), lure the undefeated army into a hellish conflict. Falling in with a group of hardened veterans (each one a memorable and intriguing character), Matthias and Lucas struggle to stay alive, safeguard their friends, and salvage what little bit of humanity they can out of a war where massacre and apathy are the norm.
The best attribute of the book is the sense of realism. Pressfield tosses you a half-pike and sends you into the unforgiving mountains of tribal Afghanistan. Not one detail, however unthinkable or disgusting, is left out, giving the reader a true idea of what war, in any time period, is like. You feel the grit and taste the blood. From the nausea of slashing the throat of a bound, pleading, and possibly innocent captive to the stench of a battlefield covered in horse excrement, the book will, in effect, make the reader a witness to war. Pressfield has obviously taken ample time to thoroughly research all pertaining subject matters.
For those who have read a Pressfield book before, there is no reason you should waste time reading this review. The author has served up another classic akin to Gates of Fire. For others, I cannot even put down on paper the emotions I experienced whilst reading this brilliant piece of historical fiction. Whether you are looking for a great, complex, and informative read or want to learn more about the problems going on in the Middle East now and throughout history, this is your book.
One warning: if you do pick up "The Afghan Campaign,: you might also want to get some Visine, because once you start reading, it's probably going to be the middle of the night before you finally put it down.