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Fire Hardcover – September 24, 2001

3.2 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The events explored in Fire focus on "people confronting situations that could easily destroy them," and as he demonstrated in The Perfect Storm, Sebastian Junger is skilled at breaking such situations down to their core elements. In this exciting book, he reports on raging forest fires in the Western U.S, war zones in Kosovo and Afghanistan, the deadly diamond trade in Sierra Leone, the plight of travelers kidnapped by guerrillas in Kashmir, the last living whale harpooner on the Caribbean island of Bequia, and the Greek-Turkish conflict on Cyprus. There is also a fascinating chapter on John Colter (explorer, fur trader, and member of the Corps of Discovery led by Lewis and Clark) in which he comments on the need for some to seek adventure as a means of escape from our relatively safe modern world: "Life in modern society is designed to eliminate as many unforeseen events as possible, and as inviting as that seems, it leaves us hopelessly underutilized.... Threats to our safety and comfort have been so completely wiped out that we have to go out of our way to create them." Junger has a keen grasp on this mentality (in fact, he exhibits it himself), and in Fire he clearly explains the fears and difficulties involved in reporting on dangerous events from foreign countries: "You have two weeks to understand a completely alien culture, find a story that no one has heard of, and run it into the ground. It never feels even remotely possible. But it is." And he has done it well in this thrilling book. --Shawn Carkonen

From Publishers Weekly

Danger junkies rejoice! The Perfect Storm king returns with no, not a new booklength narrative, but a collection of previously published magazine articles. Junger spent the last few years documenting some of the world's toughest places: Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and the former Yugoslavia, as well as nonmilitary hot spots like American wildfires. His reporting on wartime atrocities for Vanity Fair is well known, and his wilderness stories for adventure magazines like Outside and Men's Health have brought him an enormous extra-book readership. Junger's newest can be considered a sort of early Greatest Hits volume, wherein Junger's disaster-zone reporting will whet the appetites of risk voyeurs everywhere. Consider his interview with Afghan guerrilla leader Ahmad Shah Massoud ("After we'd spent half an hour ducking the shells, the commander said he'd just received word that Taliban troops were preparing to attack the position, and it might be better if we weren't around for it"), or his Kosovo klatch with Serbian paramilitaries ("The men grinned broadly at us. One of them wasn't holding a gun in his hands. He was holding a huge double-bladed ax."). But Junger is more than a dispassionate adventure-monger; he is an observer awed by the courage of "people confronting situations that could easily destroy them." Whether describing the trials of airborne forest firefighters or the occupational hazards of old-fashioned harpoon-and-rope whale hunting, Junger challenges readers to reconsider their fondness for ease: "Life in modern society is designed to eliminate as many unforeseen events as possible, and as inviting as that seems, it leaves us hopelessly underutilized. And that is where the idea of 'adventure' comes in." (Oct.)
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (October 17, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393010465
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393010466
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #766,456 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on November 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover
For any author attempting to satisfy readers after delivering a book as widely celebrated as, "The Perfect Storm", the task is almost impossible. This is the task that Sebastian Junger faced when presenting his second book to readers. The 10 stories he collects here will be familiar to many as the majority appeared in magazine form prior to being collected between these covers. With his first book he demonstrated how well he could place a reader in the midst of a tale. His writing was detailed, authentic; he gave readers a vicarious experience of feeling they were close to, if not on The Andrea Gale. He wrote what he felt he needed to write to tell the story. These are essentially magazine articles, and as such are confined to the space they were allotted.
The stories are well written and have the effect, intended or not, of becoming bits of autobiographical sketches of the author. I enjoyed this aspect, and it raised my general enjoyment of the collection. The amount of knowledge a reader may possess on a given topic will also determine how interesting the stories will be to a given person. With all the information that we are receiving daily about Afghanistan, his story, "A Lion In Winter", may have less impact than it might have had if the nightmare of September 11 had not happened. I am not suggesting the story is poorly done; rather its informative value may have been overtaken by current events.
These stories will also take you to the sites of forest fires, to Kosovo and the author's first person accounts of the evil he witnessed, to The Caribbean, and to Sierra Leone. Most of these articles have themes and endings that make the fate of The Andrea Gale much less graphic and unsettling.
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Format: Hardcover
Sebastian Junger is a craftsman of repute. With honed words and dispassionate facts, he takes us into the drama and horror of situations around the globe. His skill is apparent through each chapter of this book. In the beginning, he tells us that he started his previous book "The Perfect Storm" intending to write of dangerous professions around the world, not just that of commercial fishermen. In "Fire" he gives us insight into more than one dangerous occupation; thus, the book might be more aptly titled "Danger Zones."
"Fire," however, falls short of its billing. The title and cover lend one to believe Junger will follow the lives of a fire crew battling a blaze, as he did with commercial fishermen facing "The Perfect Storm." But this book is actually old news. The chapters are reprinted articles (some outdated in information and some redundant in their research). The scenes are vivid and full of engrossing detail, yet lose some of their power in the retelling and in the disjointed stitching of mismatched pieces. I felt that his chapter "Colter's Way" would've made a nice lead up to the more current stories, and his chapter about his own boyhood brush with danger could've set the book's pace with a personal touch. Instead, "Fire" broke out in too many places and I lost my zeal to keep reading. Halfway through, I had to consciously choose to continue. I hope Junger brings us some fresh stuff next time around. Until then, I'm feeling only lukewarm.
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Format: Hardcover
Sebastian Junger's book "Fire" is getting a lot of attention these days becasue of Junger's visit to Afghanistan in November 2000, and his visit with the military leader of the Northern Alliance, who has since been assassinated. This section, however, is only one chapter in a book that is a collection of diverse stories ranging from reportage on Western U.S. wildfires to the battlefields of Kosovo and Sierra Leonne. Junger is a good reporter and an excellent writer who knows how to make his stories come alive for the reader. He originally conceived a book in which he would report on the most dangerous jobs in the world, hence the first two chapters on Western firefighters and the third on a traditional whale hunter. Junger then discovered he had a knack as a foreign correspondent and ventured into some of the world's war zones. With all of his stories, Junger provides valuable insight for the reader, especially in his reporting on the long standing division of Cyprus, which he co-authored with another journalist.
The only drawback is that Junger's pieces are the original magazine articles and are not expanded upon for the book. The focus of each article also tends to be very narrow, especially in the foreign pieces. Junger lacks the depth of master correspondent like Thomas Friedman, and the book is fairly slight at just over 220 pages. Nevertheless, he is a skilled writer, and this makes for excellent and informative reading.
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Format: Hardcover
I happened across Sebastian Junger's latest while wildfires are raging near Sydney, India and Pakistan are heating up the Kashmir conflict, and the conflict in Afghanistan is still swirling toward an uncertain conclusion. Junger's second book manages to touch on all these current headlines, making you want to find out what he's working on *now*, just to be forewarned.
"Fire" is a collection of short essays, most published over the last ten years as magazine articles. That's an easy slam-dunk after a big hit like "The Perfect Storm". "Fire" is not Junger's next big thing, but it's certainly worthwhile if you were unaware of his other writings.
My favorite in this collection is "Colter's Way", inspired by an Old West figure famous for pushing his luck in Blackfeet territory. Junger relates Colter's exploits to the current fascination with extreme sports and adventure travel. Basically, modern life is safe but dull, so people turn dangerous pastimes to feel more alive, Junger says.
Junger promptly lets the air out of the modern adventure's tires: "because it's not necessary, it's not heroic", he says, however "brave" it can be.
As in "The Perfect Storm", Junger's levelheaded approach to danger is a nice contract to Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air" and its ilk, which seem to emphasize the pathlogical aspects of life at the extreme. "Storms happen" would be Junger's motto, versus Krakauer's annoying "why am I up on Everest" hand-wringing.
The last piece in the book, "The Lion in Winter" is an account of Junger's interview with the late anti-Taliban leader, Ahmad Shah Massoud.
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