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...as written by a civilian.
And he starts off running, too, with Blackburn's fall happening midway through chapter two of ninety-seven. Bowden then takes us through the following day and night and morning of combat at the same pace, quick asides fleshing out the history of Task Force Ranger and how it all went wrong. He effortlessly jumps between every viewpoint you could think of: grunts, commanders, civilians, militia, pilots, medics, Delta, you name it. All these varied people bring a different perspective, have a different part to play, and Bowden keeps it clear who is doing what and why. The reader is told everything he or she needs to know as soon as he or she needs to know it, in an easily grasped way. Above all else, Black Hawk Down is an immersive, engaging piece of nonfiction.
But also, I think the book represents something more universal. We hear the human stories of so many people, mostly soldiers: their motivations for enlisting, reactions to combat, snippets of army life, and so on. It layers glimpses and slivers and stories on top of each other, the end result being a mosaic of humanity under extreme conditions.
Another charm point for this book is its tone. Bowden never judges the subjects of his narration for thinking or doing anything. He simply recites. Whether it reflects good or ill, be it a petty mistake or a substantial act of bravery, it gets related.
I felt Alan Sklar gave a solid performance. His tone, like that of the book, was one of detached recitation. He delivers the right amount of emotion when the book calls for it, and does the dialogue decently enough when it comes up.
On a side note, I think my favorite person to follow was Delta Force operator SFC Howe. I loved his amusingly jaundiced view of everything that was going on. "Everything about this situation was pissing him off: the goddamned Somalis, his leaders, the idiot Rangers..." Even when he was feeling respect for the enemy it felt like he was doing it in part as a screw you to the Rangers around him.
Less fun was when the narration followed SPC Stebbins. I knew going in that he would later be sentenced to thirty years for raping his daughter. It doesn't invalidate his bravery, but I cringed to hear how he was becoming a sort-of legend in the unit when I knew how far he and his fortunes would fall. "Then, he got married, and his wife had a baby-" Eeeee....
22 of 22 people found this review helpful
Black Hawk Down is one of the great combat narratives of modern times and a tribute to the courage of the men who fought and died in Somalia. Alan Sklar does the book justice with his precise narration. One of my all time favorite books.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful
This book is so much better than the movie...and the movie is one of my favourites.
Far better critics have left far more eloquent reviews, that said after lostening to it i just have to pass on the enjoyment and satisfaction i got from it.
As a previous soldier i can honestly vouch for the accounts from the Rangers, albeit i have no experiance of combat but i have been to my share of current theatres, the boredom these men felt and the bravado and the natural playfullness of some accompanied with natural maturity of others is something any soldier can relate to. This book does an amazing job of showing the Rangers as being MEN. It takes away the "stormtrooper" mask wich is amplified by hollywood and leaves behind human men with lives that matter to them and their loved ones.
Black Hawk Down the book however does not stop there and instead it even goes as far as to show the humanity of the enemy, something that truly lack in all the modern media. We enjoy seeing our enemies as nameless targets. As soldiers we need this to remain detached to a degree but as humans its great to be reminded of the fact that we are there doing a job and they , the enemy are likewise just doing the job needed to be done.
I think the way the book acheives this is not a fortunate accident instead it is the very thing that is the point of the book, and furthermore its the whole point of what the Rangers in Somalia and other soldiers later in Iraq and Afghan and before in Vietnam and the Great Wars were feeling in their own times. I think that all soldiers since the beginning of time have been MEN first, not namless soldiers with no context of what brought them to their last battleground.
This book does simply a perfect job of bringing humanity back into a story where im sure men on both sides doubted if their was any humanity left on this planet, even down to when the humvee drivers laughed at knocking down the man in the street, its not because its funny to run men over, its because its so obsurd. It leaves wondering whos the good guys here and that because at that moment in time there is no good guys and equally there is no bad guys there is just men trying to survive a few more heartbeats, to just make it to the end of the street and then after that who knows, maybe they will be lucky and survive a little while longer.
I will finish before i end up writing my own book as a review, this book moved me whilst listening to it and im happy for that as it reminds me that I too am a man first and in any of the situations described by the people in this book weather they be US Forces or Somali i would probably of exactly the same as any one of them, I would of been afraid to go back out, i would of been over flowing with rage and needing to go back out to exact revenge, i would of wanted to pull down a Black Hawk from the sky to defeat the Americans seeming to invade my home, i would of tortued men who just killed my countrymen and i would of offered tea to a captive as well as receive it if i was indeed captive.........
We are all MEN first and when the time of words end and action begins then we have to adopt our primitive animal states and do things that no one and everyone can understand.
A truly excellent book depicting a 15 hour window of a conflict that no one cares about on a continent that is forfotten, fought by human beings against human beings which makes it the most relevant story to any culture since the first cultures exsisted.
Thanks to Mark Bowden for his persistent reaserach and to the all the men and women who allowed him to document their accounts for future generations to appreciate.
....Oh ye Alan Skar does an amazing job reading the story too, he truly bring the story to life and i cant imagine another voice that would of done it any justice.
out standing loved it best book I've listen to in a while 10/10 amazing ❤