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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....
21 of 21 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
Eventually I hear the story after seeing the film many times. For me it underlines the futility of war. However one cannot ignore the fascination if the subject matter. The real human stories of fighting for your own survival.
I really tried I wanted to know what really happens here but the narrator for me was useless I didn't know who was who or what was what I got lost in this very complexed fast paced storey.. a narrator is extremely important and needs to be multidimensional when so many characters are at play