Escape your life for a little while — come play in mine.

Book review: Lone Survivor

Posted by Lissa on October 12, 2008

Leathergirl (aka Lady Doubletrouble) was kind enough to leave a comment requesting more book reviews; apparently she and the Mister both enjoyed Alas, Babylon but had not heard of it prior to my post.  Immediately, my middle child syndrome manifested itself — my first thought was, “What books can I think of that are similar to Alas, Babylon, so the Doubletroubles might like them?”

But that’s silly.  I’ve already mentioned how utterly random and eclectic my taste in books is; the last four books I read were Lone Survivor, The Count of Monte Cristo, The War of the Worlds  and Reader and Raelynx.  We’ve got straight-up Navy, badass romantic vengeance, frightening sci-fi short-lived apocalypse and magical romantic fantasy.  Good stuff, all of it, but since Lone Survivor is the newest I’ll share my thoughts on that.  (I read enough and my library is varied enough that inevitably I’ll review books that won’t interest you.  Conversely, I hope if you stick around long enough I’ll refer you to SOMETHING you’ll like.)

I admit, Lone Survivor started slowly for me.  I’m much more picky about the tone of writing than I am on the subject; my usual method of book-buying is to read a random passage in the middle and see if I like the flow of words.  (It’s one of the reasons I adore my Kindle; I can get the first chapter for free, see if it strikes my fancy and then get the rest of the book within a minute.)  I didn’t consider the flow of words to be particularly compelling, but it was readable; I decided if nothing else it was the type of book that 1) I’d be glad to support with my purchasing dollars, 2) it’d probably be good for me to read it.

The book quickly warmed up and I eagerly read the gritty, sweat-soaked recounts of the massive training that Marcus Luttrell undertook . . . in HIGH SCHOOL, in the hopes of eventually becoming Special Forces.  That was incredibly alien to me.  Remember, I grew up in Liberalville; I knew exactly one person in my high school class entering the military and I was both bewildered and smugly sure that he couldn’t get into a decent college.  The idea of teenagers subjecting themselves to rigorous physical conditioning to TRY OUT for a military career . . . well, it was pretty damn foreign to me.

Then we moved into BUD/S school and Hell Week . . . damn, just, damn.  I know I would have curled up and died before the first half hour was up; there are very good reasons I will never be a SEAL. 

(Somewhat shameful confession: The only ideas I had about SEAL tryouts came from GI Jane.  Now, of course, I resent the easy assumptions about inherent sexism in the military and How Men (And Some Women) Are The Enemy.  On the other hand, it’s still a movie I watch when I want to gear up for a fitness kick.  My whole varsity soccer team went to see this movie my senior year in high school, and it inspired us all to attempt one-handed push-ups.  By the end of the season most of us could do ten.  Yes, I am still proud of this, and I could do fifteen.  Shut up.)

When he moved into the events leading up to and surrounding the firefight in Afghanistan, I was riveted.  Mike actually laughed at me because I was sitting in our very cosy, very comfy recliner, literally on the edge of my seat, perched forward and reading as fast as my eyes could go.  It was the kind of eyewitness account that I’ve read in Tom Clancy, except it really happened.

Also, while Tom Clancy doesn’t like the liberal media and REMFs (Rear-Echelon Mother-F*ckers, if you didn’t know), Luttrell was downright vicious in his denunciation.  According to Luttrell, it was fear of being branded a murderer by the media at home, court-martialed and possibly sent to prison, that led to a militarily-stupid decision.  That decision, poor by every imaginable military standard, directly caused the deaths in his team.

Is that really true?  I don’t know, obviously.  But he certainly believed and believes it, according to his book.  He writes early on,

I promise you, every insurgent, freedom fighter, and stray gunman in Iraq who we arrested knew the ropes, knew that the way out was to announce he had been tortured by the Americans, ill treated, or prevented from reading the Koran or eating his breakfast or watching the television.  They all knew al-Jazeera, the Arab broadcasters, would pick it up, and it would be relayed to the U.S.A., where the liberal media would joyfully accuse all of us of being murderers or barbarians or something.  Those terrorist organizations laugh at the U.S. media, and they know exactly how to use the system against us.

It’s gritty, it’s raw, it’s funny and it’s painful.  It’s also an excellent peek into the mind and life of one of Amercia’s most elite soldiers.  It carries the Official LookingForLissa Warning: Do not pick up if you don’t have a day free to read it, because doing chores with your nose glued to quickly-turned pages is a pain in the butt.


4 Responses to “Book review: Lone Survivor”

  1. […] Original post by Lissa […]

  2. Nice review! I will check out the Lone Survivor on my way from work this week.

    Lovely site by the way!

  3. Joe said

    I read Lone Survivor. It is good, but I have to tell you that “House to House: A Soldier’s Memoir” by SSG David Bellavia is an even better. It is a story about the war in Iraq that you won’t hear. It is raw and graphic, but I couldn’t put it down. It is one of the best books I have ever read.

  4. […] my wisdom teeth, a rather large tattoo, etc. etc., without much difficulty. It’s nothing like SEAL school, or SERE school, or a serious car wreck or anything — I’m not THAT stupid — but […]

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