I answered a request in a Facebook group to read a copy of Mortal Men, Immortal Warriors by Steven London and leave a review. Steven London has written the book in tribute to the unit he served with in Afghanistan, the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry from the US Army.
The back of the book says…
Steven London is a retired Purple Heart recipient with a passion for diplomacy and international relations. He served alongside the “Warriors” on multiple deployments to Afghanistan. He has created this book to pay honor and tribute to those with whom he served and to share and preserve their action.
It’s Quite a Beast
At almost 300 pages this book looks like quite a beast but it’s split into sections which make things easy to get started with. London starts off with a history of the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry.
The stories run from 2004 to 2010 during the operations in Afghanistan fighting against the Taliban. Some parts are written in diary format with each soldier having between one and three pages generally to share their story.
At first, the diaries were very uneventful and I did think to myself if the book was like this the whole way through then it would be awful. These were just from the early days of arriving in Afghan though and some stories with contacts with the enemy soon started.
Many of the two pages stories were written one after the other from people on the same patrol. This meant we get to hear the story from a few different points of view. We get to see how the events happened from start to finish and the part that several soldiers played in getting the patrols back to safety.
Progressing through the book I found a few stories that almost duplicates though and this let it down a bit in my eyes. At one point there was about a page and a half that was exactly the same as the previous story two pages before, the only difference being the actions a certain soldier took after the ambush or attack had happened.
I thought I had just lost my page at first when I kept reading the same things thinking, hang on, I’ve already read all this, then I would flick forward and back trying to find out where I was supposed to be.
I think the book is a little too long to be in the style that it is written. Maybe if you have links or knowledge of the unit featured then you will happily read through them all.
A Book of Reports
There’s no doubt that there are some amazing stories from some amazing soldiers. But when you get two hundred pages in without the book being told in story mode it’s like you’re reading a big book of reports and they sort of blended in one after the other after a while. There was nothing regarding the overall war and the progress being made or what differences were occurring over time for the patrols due to the actions of previous patrols.
If you know a bit about the US Army and know of the 4th Infantry then you will probably enjoy it a bit more but for me I needed it to flow a bit more rather than be a book of short articles.
There were some funny stories as well. When an interpreter is sharing his story of a US Sergeant saying about five times to make sure he doesn’t make a mistake here because this operation is vital and it can’t make.
He kept repeating to the Afghan interpreter “no mistakes OK?”. The interpreter kept replying saying no problem. Then as soon as they were about to move off the Sergeant had fallen in a ditch and hurt himself so the operation was cancelled.
So overall? Mortal Men, Immortal Soldiers is worth a read if you know about the 4th Infantry but if you want an exciting page turning, flowing book then this won’t satisfy the need for that.