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Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Afghan Campaign by Steven Pressfield

"This is the devil's country...and you are fighting the devil's war"

The Afghan Campaign is one of two pieces of historical fiction that Steven Pressfield has written about Alexander the Great (the other is The Virtues of War). Pressfield has written about several historical eras but his real area of interest seems to be the Greek and Hellenistic eras. His most famous and, in my opinion, his best novel is Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae.

Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.)

The Afghan Campaign is a solid novel. Pressfield does his best to put us on the ground with the troops, much like he did with Gates of Fire.  The reader follows a group of young Macedonian recruits as they ship off to join Alexander's army as it approaches what is now known as Afghanistan.  Pressfield's choice to view the war from the level of a raw recruit (Matthias) as he learns to fight and eventually becomes a sergeant is an interesting one - and a good one. The reader gets a chance to learn all as he learns and gets a real feel for the Alexander's army and the difficulties they experienced.

Steven Pressfield

One of more interesting aspects of the novel is Pressfield's choice to incorporate what I assume is made up Macedonian slang into the story. Every profession has its slang and the military seems to create more than most. In this novel, Alexander's army is no different. It gives it a more authentic "feel" even if the slang is not authentic. Fortunately, Pressfield provides a glossary in the back that I used heavily until I learned the expressions.

So, what do we learn in this book? Nothing new, but lessons that seem to have to be re-learned with every generation like war is brutal, ugly and terrible, people will die defending their homes and their ways of life, no matter how worthless they seem to outsiders and war changes the people that experience it, including the woman and children in the war zone.

I would be most interested in hearing any comments from soldiers who have served in Afghanistan and also read this book.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

This novel can be found on Amazon.com here: The Afghan Campaign.

Reviewed on January 16, 2011.

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