This is a suspenseful, first-person account of the raid that took down Osama bin Laden in May, 2011. The author, writing under the pseudonym of Mark Owen, was one of the elite SEAL Team Six operators that participated in the raid (his real name has since been revealed as Matt Bissonnette). The book debuted at number one on Amazon. It does not disappoint.
The first half of No Easy Day covers Bissonnette's work in SEAL Team Six prior to the Osama bin Laden raid. After a cliffhanger opening that anticipates the climax of the book, the story backs up several years to Bissonnette's Green Team training. He was already a Navy SEAL at this point, but he was trying to become a member of the elite Seal TEAM Six, which is composed of the "best of the best." We follow his deployments in both Iraq and Afghanistan, where the recounting of certain missions serves to establish the proficiency of the author and his team at their job. This is rather standard fare for the subgenre.
The latter half of the book is devoted to the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound, including the extensive preparations and some of the political aftermath. The actual raid is told in almost moment-by-moment detail, transporting the reader to the compound in Abbottabad. The scene is described so richly that it feels as though we are climbing the stairs with the team as they close in on bin Laden. Several maps and charts help us to picture the location.
No Easy Day focuses almost exclusively on Bissonnette's training and deployments. We learn very little about his personal life, which--combined with his intentional pseudonymity--makes it harder to connect with him emotionally. This information was omitted for obvious security reasons. He does share the toll that SEAL life takes on family life, however. "Many of my teammates suffered through bitter divorces. We missed weddings, funerals, and holidays. We couldn't tell the Navy no, but we could tell our families no. And we did often. . . . Work was always the number one priority. It took everything out of you and gave back very little. . . . everything else in the world took a backseat" (106-7). For those wanting a fuller portrait of a Navy SEAL's personal life, see the excellent book by Eric Blehm,
Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team SIX Operator Adam Brown
, which details the life of SEAL Team Six operator Adam Brown.
Bissonnette does not engage in self-aggrandizement or bravado, which has marred some earlier books by former Navy SEALs. The author seems to have a realistic view of himself. He says at one point: "I am not unique or special" (298). He does not hesitate to share instances in combat when he was afraid or made a mistake. He occasionally engages in self-deprecating humor. He regularly dishes out praise for his teammates. Bissonnette says that today's SEALs have "evolved past being egomaniacs" (289). Such professionalism is appreciated.
Bissonnette states in the introduction that he has sanitized the book so that it presents no threat to national security. The identities of those involved are masked; special tactics and technology are not revealed; and certain information is generalized. The author says, "If you are looking for secrets, this is not your book" (x). Yet none of these precautions affect the impact of the book. There is still enough specific information to make the action riveting.
Despite Bissonnette's precautions, the book is nonetheless generating controversy. Some special operators have challenged his decision to reveal details about the mission, breaking their traditional code of silence. The Department of Defense has threatened to sue because he did not present the book to the Pentagon for inspection prior to publication. The author has responded by pointing out that many people, from the President on down, have revealed details about the mission. He says, "If my commander in chief is willing to talk, then I feel comfortable doing the same" (298). He claims that everything in the book has already appeared in other unclassified sources (xi). I for one am glad that the book was released. It shows that those who commit acts of terror will suffer retribution--perhaps even deadly retribution--for their evil. This should serve as a warning to our enemies.
At the end of the book are the names of those SEALs who have paid the ultimate price since September 11, 2001. Bissonnette claims that he is donating the majority of the proceeds from the book to charities that support the families of these fallen Navy SEALs. He encourages readers to donate as well.
The book is well-written and a page-turner. Even though the outcome of the book was already known, it maintains a high degree of suspense throughout to see how the situation actually played out. I read it in one sitting. Highly recommended.