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Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Profession: A Thriller by Steven Pressfield

A cautionary tale buried inside some first-rate action.

The Profession is a near-future sci-fi action-adventure tale with a great deal of political analysis and some history tossed in as well.

Set in the year 2032, the world has become a different place, but not at all unrecognizable. The chaos in the Middle East still reigns supreme on the international scene because oil is still king ($8/gallon gasoline is threatening to collapse America's economy). Iran and Iraq are still fighting, terrorism still exist, the oil states in the Middle East are, at the same time, both strong and unstable. The United States is in the middle of an election that seems to be addressing none of the real issues that the country faces and none of the candidates inspire anyone to anything but changing the channel of the television when they appear.

Steven Pressfield
America is still acting as the world's de facto policeman, although this role is enhanced by a new creation - the private, mercenary armies that have their roots in the current Iraq and Afghanistan wars with groups like Blackwater - former special forces soldiers recruited to join private armies with the promise of much more money and many less restrictions. These private armies are no longer just support for official armies. No, they are real and complete armies with contracted air support, ships, tanks and lots of high-talent soldiers to operate everything. While they still cannot stand toe-to-toe with a large country's military, they are much more nimble and able to react with greater speed.

The technology of the world of 2032 is recognizable as well - the high explosives are a bit more explosive but in the world of war it is still machine guns, helicopters, missiles and drones.

Suddenly, in the midst of this chaos comes the head of Force Insertion, the largest mercenary company in the world, James Salter.  Salter is a former MacArthur-like Marine General who was removed from office for overstepping his bounds. In a bold political move that is reminiscent of Alcibiades and Julius and August Caesar, he offers a solution to all of the world's problems - give him the legal authority to be dictator of the United States (a legal possibility thanks to a series of bad laws passed after another 9/11 type of attack) and he will dispense with all of the arguing and just do what needs to be done.

The story is told from the point of view of Gilbert "Gent" Gentilhomme, a mercenary who knew Salter from their days in the Marines - the man who Salter treats like a son, and also the man who has a few misgivings about the whole thing.

This book can be read on multiple levels - as a cautionary tale, as a shoot-em-up, as a political thriller, or as a primer on how history can repeat itself.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: The Profession: A Thriller by Steven Pressfield.

Reviewed on May 28, 2011.

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