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Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America and The New Face of American War Hardcover – June 17, 2004
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This month's Book With Buzz: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers "In a Dark, Dark Wood" and "The Woman in Cabin 10" comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, "The Lying Game." See more
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From Publishers Weekly
Wright rode into Iraq on March 20, 2003, with a platoon of First Reconnaissance Battalion Marines—the Marine Corps' special operations unit whose motto is "Swift, Silent, Deadly." These highly trained and highly motivated First Recon Marines were the leading unit of the American-led invasion force. Wright wrote about that experience in a three-part series in Rolling Stone that was hailed for its evocative, accurate war reporting. This book, a greatly expanded version of that series, matches its accomplishment. Wright is a perceptive reporter and a facile writer. His account is a personality-driven, readable and insightful look at the Iraq War's first month from the Marine grunt's point of view. It jibes with other firsthand reports of the first phase of the Iraqi invasion (including David Zucchino's Thunder Run), showing the unsettling combination of feeble and vicious resistance put up by the Iraqi army, the Fedayeen militiamen and their Syrian allies against American forces bulldozing through towns and cities and into Baghdad. Wright paints compelling portraits of a handful of Marines, most of whom are young, street-smart and dedicated to the business of killing the enemy. As he shows them, the Marines' main problem was trying to sort out civilians from enemy fighters. Wright does not shy away from detailing what happened when the fog of war resulted in the deaths and maimings of innocent Iraqi men, women and children. Nor does he hesitate to describe intimately the few instances in which Marines were killed and wounded. Fortunately, Wright is not exposing the strengths and weaknesses of a new generation of American fighting men, as the misleadingly hyped-up title and subtitle indicate. Instead, he presents a vivid, well-drawn picture of those fighters in action on the front lines in the blitzkrieg-like opening round of the Iraq War.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Its timeliness notwithstanding, this chronicle of an American reconnaissance platoon's mission to spearhead the invasion of Iraq is not one of those hastily thrown together "instant books." The author was the only journalist to travel with First Recon. He joined the platoon in March 2003 and traveled with its soldiers into combat missions (including the assault on Baghdad in April). His book is not about the war itself but about one group of men who fought in it. Today's American soldiers, Wright says, are young men who are "on more intimate terms with the culture of the video games, reality TV shows and Internet porn than they are with their own families." (One 19-year-old corporal compares driving into an ambush to a Grand Theft Auto video game: "It was fucking cool.") Wright also explores how today's pop-culture-driven soldiers differ from those who fought more than three decades ago in Vietnam. A perceptive, often troubling examination of soldiers' view of war, peace, and combat. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top customer reviews
It's not about officers though. It's about the grunt Marines and their NCOs. While it details the experience of war, it also is a window into the tail end of Generation X and a strong look at military culture overall. Evan Wright rode along in a Humvee on the very front lines with 2nd platoon. He is a self-described liberal who wrote for Rolling Stone. Because he was willing to sleep, eat, ride, and experience the horror/thrill of combat with the Marines, they both opened up to him and grew to respect him (many have stayed in touch years later, which makes for an excellent Afterword). It seems like Wright is able to remain even keeled, but it is clear that he likes and deeply appreciates many of the Marines that he chronicles.
Some critics have said that this book (and the outstanding David Simon HBO mini-series) glorify war, while others say it is an over-the-top anti-war story. As an Army veteran (and current Army Medical Officer in mental health) that has counseled over 1000 veterans and service members, I am of the opinion that this is very accurate and quite nuanced. I am also of the opinion that almost every war book or movie, when done accurately, has a bit of an anti-war message. War is hell. Even if you survive it.
My first contact with Generation Kill was the TV series I came across while researching war for a piece I was writing. The series and book differ slightly, although the difference is more in the manner of presenting things than in the core story. The two different representations actually complement each other as the book offers more backstory and the benefit of hindsight, while the series more accurately depicts the chaos and how the marines were left in the dark about their missions almost to the very end. While this chaotic storytelling was brilliantly incorporated into the series, it certainly wouldn't work in the book so the narration being supported by maps and additional information was a good choice for it.
What this book does so well is that Wright doesn't take sides (as much as that is humanly possible), he merely reports the goings-on around him as he travels with team one of 1st Recon second platoon. He's equally frank about the marines' having doubts when the ROE say that every human being is an enemy, as he is frank relating the darker, more disturbing traits of some of the men.
Perhaps the only 'fault' of this book is that it's so well written, has such compelling characters and fast paced plot that sometimes, as readers, we forget that it's not fiction. Reading it as fiction would certainly take away form its value and importance.