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In listening to Sebastian Junger read War, the book he both experienced and wrote, you will periodically find yourself standing or sitting stock-still while the powerful narrative sinks in. Junger does not pull any punches in his writing, and his reading carries with it the anxiety and the pure fear he experienced embedded on five occasions with U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. This six-mile long valley "the Afghanistan of Afghanistan”, according to Junger has sustained 70% of all U.S. bombing in Afghanistan. Junger’s respect for the soldiers of U.S. Army’s 2nd Platoon, Battle Company, 173rd Airborne Brigade can be heard as he contrasts the jocularity of the men (the platoon was all male) and periods of stultifying boredom with the split-second responses every soldier maintains to react to snipers, ambushes, and IED attacks.
Junger tells of the bravado and the extraordinary human connection to one another the soldiers display. Each soldier and even Junger knows that the next instant might bring death. That knowledge is ever-present as Junger describes surprise attacks by Taliban and on Taliban with vivid intensity.
Junger’s reading lets you join in on the soldiers’ humor that strengthens bonds and, for the moment, relieves the reality of life in one of the world’s most unforgiving terrains, even without a vicious enemy potentially lurking behind the next boulder. His tone captures the men’s loneliness and the existential angst inevitably affecting them all until the next firefight comes as most of them do, in an instant and seldom with warning.
Listeners will enjoy Junger’s description of the physically huge soldier, Vandenberg, who has his fellow soldiers in awe of his sheer bulk and strength. Vandenberg is a source of good-humored testing and honest admiration, and you can hear the catch in Junger’s voice as he tells of Vandenberg’s nearly fatal wound and the tenderness with which the soldier reached from the cot where he lay to grab the hand of his also severely wounded buddy, while both waited to be helicoptered away for more intensive medical care.
Junger describes the brutality of war experienced by young American soldiers and shares examples of bravery and camaraderie that occur on almost a daily basis amidst deprivations unimaginable to civilians which will make you want to stop every person in military uniform to thank them for their service. You’ll also want to thank Sebastian Junger for writing War and— most especially for reading it with honesty and compassion. Carole Chouinard
In his breakout best seller, The Perfect Storm, Sebastian Junger created "a wild ride that brilliantly captures the awesome power of the raging sea and the often futile attempts of humans to withstand it" (Los Angeles Times Book Review). Now, Junger turns his brilliant and empathetic eye to the reality of combat - the fear, the honor, and the trust among men in an extreme situation whose survival depends on their absolute commitment to one another.
His on-the-ground account follows a single platoon through a 15-month tour of duty in the most dangerous outpost in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. Through the experiences of these young men at war, he shows what it means to fight, to serve, and to face down mortal danger on a daily basis.
4 stars for me as a book, but 5 stars to Sebastian Junger for being there. I'd go higher if I could. Not a novel with gripping drama, more in the vein journalistic reportage; and even then there's less of a connection to the main players than hoped - more descriptive than anything. And the description is brutal and unforgiving. Very much a treatise on brotherhood, heroism and the harsh reality of the aftermath. No politics to be found. More localized, but like HBO's Band of Brothers in theme without the visuals. Junger narrates the book himself, and at times he bulldozes through the material without nuance, and in a manner not as engaging as he is during the interview at the end. But hey, this is his story, his book and his ducking real bullets. This is a solid, important read. Well done Junger, my thanks to you. Recommended.
17 of 17 people found this review helpful
This is why journalists embed with troops. Junger gives us a look inside the lives of the front line of front line troops with none of the politics of the larger military operation. Great attention to detail. I finished the book in two sessions. He also does a great job reading his own work.
12 of 12 people found this review helpful
This is several articles written for a magazine, put together to make a book. I enjoyed the first couple of hours. After a couple of hours it seemed I was getting the same story with a slight variation. Like another reviewer said, I did get confused on the timeline.
No, I am not going to warn you about the gore and horror of war, although that is in the book. You may not come away with a proud, patriotic feel for our troops. Junger tells us that many guys join the army because they are losers in our society. They don't fight to protect our country, they fight because that is what they like to do. They don't care about the causes, if they weren't in the army they would be unemployed, working low wage jobs or in jail. This is not me talking, this is Junger. I will not comment on my opinion, but believe you should listen to the book and decide for yourself.
Junger narrated this himself and I think he did a fine job.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
Junger's WAR puts you on the front line of Afghanistan, where he was embedded with soldiers from 2nd Platoon, Battle Company, stationed in the Korengal Valley for a year. There are no hot meals or red meat, no running water, and no women. The men have each other, and combat.
Best of all, it doesn't take sides - it doesn't attempt to justify the war, or condemn it. It simply puts you next to the soldiers and lets you observe their lives and duty.
There's a couple of passages toward the middle of the book where Junger and the troops barely survive a roadside bomb. There's terror, and justified rage. This is contrasted almost immediately with an incident where an enemy combatant's leg is blown off, and he dies crawling around trying to find it while the 2nd Platoon cheers. The complexity of war - and all the emotions it brings out in the men who serve in the military - is staggering, and I often sat riveted in my car, trying to take it all in.
It's an unflinching, and amazingly apolitical look at what happens on the front lines of war, and how the men are affected. It was particularly insightful listening to how meaningful their life is in combat, and how when they return home, their lives don't quite have that same purpose, and how traumatic that can be.
Junger is not the most exceptional reader I've heard, but I am glad he read this. Hearing his voice, knowing that he experienced all this and is telling it to us, adds a certain amount of gravity that would be loss if it were coming from someone else's mouth.
An incredible and thought-provoking book.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
This is a truely unusual book. I almost exclusively read non-fiction military history, and this is one of the best accounts of warfare I've ever read. It's enlightening and gripping and uncontaminated by politics. It's up there among books like, "With the Old Breed". I'm profoundly grateful to have learned about the men of Battle Company, and for the efforts of Tim and Sebasian to tell their story.
8 of 9 people found this review helpful
There is a difference between war and combat; a distinction made on the most personal of terms in this volume. It is one of the few audiobooks on which I have hit the rewind button in order to hear something a second or a third time. I found Junger's observations about how and why people willingly become "heroes" to be among the most revealing and profound I have ever experienced. The only equivalent experience for me was watching the movie Apocalypse Now for the first time. This story is gritty, bloody, profane, and ultimately, beautiful. One curious note that haunted me throughout this story was drawing parallels to my own father, a WWII and Korean War vet who stayed in the Army continuously from 1939 to 1964. Why on Earth would someone stay in the Army when everyone else was headed for home? In a very large way, this tale explains what had formerly been completely inexplicable...what is the psychic attraction? Why do people fight? And what does it mean when we call someone "a veteran"?
7 of 8 people found this review helpful
Outstanding!!! This book shows the evolution of war into the dirty, politically driven effort that we find in the 21st Century. After reading the book, and seeing the movie "Restrepo" which was done by Junger, I came away asking myself "What is in Afghanistan that is worth this?" The book is extremely well done and captures the spirit of some excellent soldiers caught up in another situation where America is trying to recreate itself in a backward nation with no interest in change and no value of life.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful
Coming into this, I had a very limited familiarity with Mr. Junger's other work. I had seen the documentary Restrepo, produced in conjunction with War, and thought very highly of its presentation of a platoon's tour of duty in this extraordinary place. This audiobook is no less impressive.
For one eager to discover big picture truths about the war in Afghanistan, look elsewhere. This is a book about the men asked to suffer in pursuit of those grander ambitions, the price they pay and the rewards they find in choosing to serve their country so far from home and civilization. In describing the routine of a combat outpost, how the men spend their time, and the fears and motivations they confess to an embedded journalist they come to trust, Junger lays bare some powerful insights about the mentality of men on the front lines. He does not take a position on the war, merely describes the strange things it and all other wars before have done to the youth sent to fight, and demands we account for it in our decisions regarding this and all other conflicts.
This is an unvarnished account of life as an infantryman, exposing the often artificially exaggerated crudity, and cultural and behavioral eccentricities that pop up when men are taken away from the trappings of civilization and the company of women, and the only respite from a miserable monotony is the prospect of combat and random death. That in no way diminishes the sacrifices these men make, in fact magnifies them when one considers that almost all of those same soldiers willingly return to endure the same hazards, sometimes again and again. This is particularly enlightening when one reaches Junger's examination of the soldiers' views of courage: Imprecisely summed up as that a professional soldier considers the true act of bravery to be that of volunteering in the first place, since the feats and sacrifices a civilian would consider heroic are simply expected by soldiers as part of their duty.
I would have to agree with the more reserved praise for the author's reading of his own work. Though a professional narrator may have brought more drama to the account, this is as much Junger's story as that of 2nd Platoon, Battle Company, and it only seems right that he should be permitted to tell it.
There are several stories of combat in this book, including an account of an incident that would result in an award of the Medal of Honor. However, the challenges and sacrifices you may come to respect these men for most, are those far more mundane and yet so much more daunting, dealing with the aftermath of war.
For those curious about what it's like for those brave young men now in harm's way, this is a must listen.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
I thoroughly enjoyed Perfect Storm and Death in Belmont as captivating narratives. I listened to War soon after listening to the book Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. While I was totally immersed in Matterhorn--of course a novel of war so shouldn't really compare this to nonfiction, I have become immersed in Junger's other 2 books. I listened to War a second time because I thought I hadn't appreciated the commentary/documentary style compared with a novel. The narration was somewhat monotonic to me, so this may contribute to my lesser enthusiasm.
5 of 6 people found this review helpful
Sabastian Junger, who also authored "The Perfect Storm," reports in this volume his observations while being embedded with US troups in Afghanistan. He spent five one-month periods there and reports what he saw. This book is an apolitical approach to explaining what conditions and experiences were like for men in the "remotest of outposts" in the war.
This book will disappoint some who are expecting a description of hand-to-hand combat. It is more detached than that. Yet, it reveals the behavior of the troups and places that behavior in context. Digressions into ballistics, passages about particular weapons, tedium and monotony, lack of entertainment and other issues are very insightful. Junger is not unsympathic or uncaring about the men around him, but rather explains what is taking place. To that end, he has done all tax payers a great service.
The book is written very well. Junger reads his own text which is an education in itself. A bonus, comes at the end of the audio book where he first provides acknowlegdements and then when he is interviewed. Don't miss those parts of the audio book.
War may not change your mind about US military involvement, but it will certainly help you better understand what it is all about.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful