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Generation Kill by Evan Wright and One Bullet Away by Nathaniel Fick

Non-fiction books aren't really my thing; generally, this is how my relationship goes with non-fiction books: I see a really interesting one, I borrow it, I start to read it, and then I ditch it a chapter or two later when the dry, boring writing and non-existent plot fail to hook me. However, this a review of two non-fiction books that I read back to back after a five year old three article series that I dug up on the internet; it was written by Evan Wright and preceded his book Generation Kill, which is basically a book version of the article series that he wrote and published in Rolling Stone Magazine.

Recently HBO adapted Generation Kill into a mini-series that ran sometime last year; I got the series on DVD and in the midst of watching it, I decided I wanted to get my hands on the book to read. In the meantime, I stumbled across One Bullet Away by Nathaniel Fick, the lieutenant of the platoon that Wright embedded with, and I read that book while I waited for Generation Kill to come in through ILL.

Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America, and the New Face of American War came about as a result of the author's experience as an embedded reporter with First Reconnaissance Battalion of the U.S. Marine Corps. Wright rode shotgun with one of the team leaders in Lt. Nathaniel Fick's platoon; for much of the early operations in Iraq in 2003, First Recon was at the 'tip of the spear' of the invasion. This the Iraq war experience as seen through the eyes of the enlisted personnel with whom Wright spent much of his time. Wright gives vivid descriptions of individual personalities within the unit.
One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer by Nathaniel Fick instead focuses on Fick's experience in training and combat as a Marine officer. The book opens with his decision to accept a commission with the U.S.M.C. upon graduation from Dartmouth College and follows his experience in Officer Candidate School, his decision to pursue a position as an infantry officer, and his first fleet deployment. Fick recounts receiving the news of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the other side of the world while his ship was in port in Australia and then the ship's immediate deployment to the Middle East and his platoon's eventual mission as some of the first Marines to deploy into Afghanistan. Upon completion of his platoon's mission in Afghanistan, Fick is given the opportunity for a new post with First Reconnaissance Battalion. He completes Reconnaissance training and soon is deployed with his new platoon to Kuwait to begin staging the invasion of Iraq. The book does not end with this deployment but rather follows him to his next billet and his decision to leave the Marine Corps. After he is discharged from the military he applies to graduate schools, and this is where the book ends. One thing I must say about Fick's story is that despite the fact that you already know the outcome, for example, you know he doesn't wash out of the Infantry Officer Course or the Reconnaissance training and that he survives Iraq, even in early chapters, the story remains suspenseful.

Both books are well written, and one should really read both of them, if only, to see Iraq war through two seperate perspectives. I highly recommend these books if you enjoy reading true accounts of military experience and of combat.

One Bullet Away is available upon request from Annville Free Library and Myerstown Community Library. Generation Kill is available upon request from Interlibrary Loan (unfortunately, it is not available in county, so if you are interested in reading it, please ask someone at your library's circulation desk about requesting it).

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


Matthew Goldin said…
Great review! I thought you might be interested in Evan Wright's new book, which comes out in April. Here's the description:

"From his work as a reporter at Hustler magazine, to his National Magazine Award–winning writing for Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, Evan Wright has always had an affinity for outsiders—what he calls “the lost tribes of America.” The previously published pieces in this collection chart a deeply personal journey, beginning with his stark but sympathetic portrayals of sex workers in Porn Valley, through his raw portrait of a Hollywood ├╝beragent-turned-war documentarian and hero of America’s far right. Along the way, Wright encounters runaway teens earning corporate dollars as skateboard pitchmen; radical anarchists plotting the overthrow of corporate America; and young American troops on the hunt for terrorists in the combat zones of the Middle East. His subjects are people for whom the American dream is either just out of grasp, or something they’ve chosen to reject altogether. Sometimes frightening, usually profane, and often darkly comic, Hella Nation is Evan Wright’s meticulously observed tour of the jagged edges of all those other Americas hiding in plain sight amid the nation’s malls and gated communities. The collection also includes an all-new, autobiographical introductory essay by the author."

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