Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell

Title: Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10
Author: Marcus Luttrell
Publisher: Back Bay Books (2007)
Little, Brown and Company; Reprint edition (2009), 464 pages

Mixed feelings about this book.  I actually read it back in February of 2009.  I'd been looking forward to it and was saving it for vacation.  Lone Survivor is the story of Luttrell's life, from growing up in East Texas, to SEAL training, to his fight to stay alive in Afghanistan and his homecoming.

As a veteran myself, I really wanted to like this book, but it is poorly written and plays into the knee-jerk simplicity of the tiresome "liberal" versus "conservative" shouting match that is considered political discourse these days.  The "I love Texas" line grew tiresome as well.  There is a co-author involved, Patrick Robinson, so perhaps he was trying to infuse Luttrell's voice into the storyline, but the result makes Luttrell sound ignorant if not a bit unstable at times.  Or maybe Robinson highlighted the "liberal media" rant as a literary hook on which to hang the story, because in his talk at the Pritzker Military Library in 2008, Luttrell is charming and does not come across as polarizing at all. You can watch a video or listen to the podcast of Marcus Luttrell's talk at the Pritzker here

Luttrell is a tough, heroic man, no doubt, and I have a deep respect for his service, but the book is marred by the rants against liberals and the "liberal media."  The liberals did not create the Geneva Conventions or the Rules of Engagement under which SEAL Team 10 operated.  I would like to think that those serving in the Armed Forces today remember that they are defending the Constitution of the United States of America, which they swear an oath to defend, and not a political party or the mythology of their home state. 

I was intrigued enough by Luttrell's book to finish it, but wouldn't recommend it to a general audience.  Those who read a lot of military history will probably want to read it, as will those who'd like to know what SEAL training is like.  For those who don't regularly read military themed books, but are interested in reading a contemporary military memoir, I highly recommend Craig Mullaney's The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier's Education (2009) and Nathaniel Fick's One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer (2005), and, to a lesser extent, Anthony Swofford's Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles (2003).  I was not surprised to see that these three books were all included on The Military Times' recent list of the best military books of the decade.  Lone Survivor did not make the list.

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