“Right here was a 21st-century version of General Custer’s last stand, Little Big Horn with turbans.”
Marcus Luttrell in Lone Survivor
Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10. By Marcus Luttrell with Patrick Robinson. Little Brown, 249 pp., $24.99.
By Janice Harayda
Two years ago Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell survived a disastrous firefight in the mountains of Afghanistan with his pride – and his anger – intact. But the clash took the lives of the three comrades who fought beside him and eight U.S. servicemen whose helicopter was shot down by the Taliban during an attempted rescue.
Luttrell’s memoir of this horrific experience is part war story, part polemic against “the liberal media” and part Valentine to George W. Bush. As a war story, it is gripping, providing a rare soldier’s-eye-view of a guerilla conflict. As a polemic, it is uneven. And as a Valentine to the president, it is likely to appeal only those who already support the administration.
“Right here was a twenty-first-century version of General Custer’s last stand, Little Big Horn with turbans,” Luttrell writes of the firefight that killed his three fellow SEALs, who were on a mission to capture an al Qaeda leader. And if the metaphor is overstated, it contains an element of truth. The appeal of this account of Operation Redwing – like that of the many books on Custer – depends partly on whose side you’re on in the provocative issues it raises.
Best line: Luttrell gives a remarkably candid account of his stateside training as a SEAL in the aptly titled Chapters 4 (“Welcome to Hell, Gentlemen”) and 5 (“Like the Remnants of a Ravaged Army”). The program was so brutal — even sadistic — that the long list of injuries included several cases of pneumonia.
Worst line: “We all harbor fears about untrained, half-educated journalists who only want a good story to justify their fears and expense accounts. Don’t think it’s just me. We all detest them, partly for their lack of judgment, mostly because of their ignorance and toe-curling opportunism. The first minute an armed conflict turns into a media war, the news becomes someone’s opinion, not hard truths. When the media gets involved in a war you’ve got a damned good chance of losing, because the restrictions on us are immediately amplified, and that’s sensationally good news for our enemy.” And it’s not “opportunism” when Luttrell gives interviews to the media to promote his book?
Reading group guide: A Totally Unathorized Reading Group Guide to Lone Survivor was posted on One-Minute Book Reviews on August 13 in the post directly before this one. The guide contains more information on and quotations from the book.
Published: First American edition, June 2007.
Janice Harayda www.janiceharayda.com is an award-winning critic who has been the book columnist for Glamour, book editor of the Plain Dealer and a vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle. One-Minute Book Reviews does not accept free books from editors, publishers or authors, and all reviews and guides offer an independent evaluation of books that is not influenced by marketing concerns.
© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.