All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Way Of The Reaper by Nicholas Irving

on August 29, 2017

Way Of The Reaper: My Greatest Untold Missions And The Art Of Being A Sniper
Nicholas Irving
St Martin’s Press
2017, 282p
Copy courtesy Pan Macmillan AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

From the New York Times Bestselling Author and Co-Star of Fox’s American Grit comes a rare and powerful book on the art of being a sniper. Way of the Reaper is a step-by-step accounting of how a sniper works, through the lens of Irving’s most significant kills – none of which have been told before. Each mission is an in-depth look at a new element of eliminating the enemy, from intel to luck, recon to weaponry. Told in a thrilling narrative, this is also a heart-pounding true story of some of The Reaper’s boldest missions including the longest shot of his military career on a human target of over half a mile.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, Nick Irving earned his nickname in blood, destroying the enemy with his sniper rifle and in deadly firefights behind a .50 caliber machine gun. He engaged a Taliban suicide bomber during a vicious firefight, used nearly silent sub-sonic ammo, and was the target of snipers himself. Way of the Reaper attempts to place the reader in the heat of battle, experiencing the same dangers, horrors and acts of courage Irving faced as an elite member of the 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, while also examining the personal ramifications of taking another life.

Readers will experience the rush of the hunt and the dangers that all snipers must face, while learning what it takes to become an elite manhunter. Like the Reaper himself, this explosive book blazes new territory and takes no prisoners.

If I had to think of a way to describe this book it would be very….American.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t read a huge amount of non-fiction and I’ve read almost no military non-fiction. But I was curious about this. Snipers are a bit of a mysterious element in warfare, you tend to think of them how they’re portrayed in movies, lying in wait in camouflage on top of buildings or in trenches and picking people off from a great distance. I was interested in the emotional side of things, the mental conflict and what it was like for your sole purpose to basically be kill other people.

Now I’m obviously not military and never have been. I’m Australian and city born and bred so I’m not interested in guns either. I can appreciate the skill it takes to become a sniper and the difficult conditions under which they work most of the time. Nicholas Irving served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and I’m sure it was heinous for many reasons. But I don’t glory war and so I think that’s why the overall attitude of this book didn’t sit well with me.

I know the conflict was brutal and I know what it was basically in retaliation for. I get that. But I found it flippant, comprising of a very black and white attitude. Everyone Irving shot was basically referred to as a “bad guy” as in I saw a bad guy coming and aimed. Very good guys and bad guys, little thought about a humanitarian aspect. And that’s what I was primarily interested in when I picked this up. The reasoning a man makes to himself inside when they do this job. Perhaps that is his reasoning. Perhaps for Nicholas Irving this was very black and white. He’s American, he’s on the good side in this war. Everyone else is bad. He doesn’t need to feel bad about killing bad people. But war is more nuanced than that and always has been. In one chapter he confidently assures the reader that the Americans don’t do horrible things to their prisoners, unlike the opposition. If the topic wasn’t so horrifying I might’ve actually laughed out loud.

I understand that I’m not the target audience for this book and probably military and gun enthusiasts will find it more palatable but I never really took to Irving himself, especially when he makes statements such as “some rules made sense to me, but I went ahead and violated them anyway” (p3). There’s also a few remarks about not looking down on ordinary soldiers now that he’s such a big sniper and special ops kinda guy. There’s probably a certain amount of arrogance and ego that’s required in order to do these sorts of things….but it doesn’t necessarily make for someone you can connect with and understand.

This book only twice touched on the kind of stuff I was hoping for – once was when Irving talked about a military dog and the second time was when he talked about the sort of PTSD and “comedown” from military mindset when he retired and came home. I found both of those really interesting and possessing of the sort of reflection I was keen to read about. But the rest of this book is just descriptions of guns and taking out the ‘bad dudes’ without any remorse or inner reflection. As I’ve mentioned, I’m not military and so I don’t know what it’s like to do this…but this book didn’t really bring me any closer to understanding it.

5/10

Book #142 of 2017


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