DISCLAIMER: this is by no means a book review. I am not qualified to write reviews and would not know where to start. What follows are my very personal thoughts on an interesting book I came across by chance. Feel free to disagree or comment if you have read the book.
The Road Ahead — Fiction from the Forever War is a collection of short stories written by US army veterans and edited by Adrian Bonenberg and Brian Castner. If you had asked me a year ago to read a book written by army veterans I would probably have raised my eyebrows. After all, I used to think, I’m as far as someone can be from anything military — its discipline, its mindset, its macho culture.
Little did I know that between its (many?) folds, the army was hiding a treasure of literature, political activism, amazing courage and honesty. A change of job and a series of unrelated events made me lift the curtain of my ignorance, ergo I ended up reading — and enjoying — this book.
As the editors write in their introduction, this is probably the first time in history that we can read a real-time, emotionally-charged, bluntly personal account of war directly from the voices of those who have lived it, away from the flashes and newsroom sensationalism of traditional journalism. Not an account, rather a fictionalised and possibly truer version of what these veterans have brought back from their experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Reading the stories I couldn’t help but feel the angst, loneliness, powerlessness, neglect the authors have felt — or have seen their comrades-in-arms feel during the long days in countries torn by war, greed and hate. It might sound like commonplace, but what struck me most was probably how the theme of death and loss is present in almost every story, and preponderant in some. We have all seen war films and documentaries, yet reading about it from the same people who experienced it is something I will never forget.
I can’t comment on the literary quality of the prose, after all it is eclectic in its style as the book includes stories from something like 20 different authors. However, some of the stories will stick with me for a long time. This book has definitely changed my perception of the US army and its serving soldiers and veterans forever.