I read this book so you don’t have to.
This book was unequivocally the worst book I’ve
ever read. It is so bad that I don’t even know where to
start to explain this travesty of the written word. From the
first page, I had to force myself to read every disgusting word
and only completed it to have the moral high ground to expose
this farce for what it’s worth: absolutely nothing. Many
times I slammed it shut in disgust not only because it was rabble-rousing
fiction, but that it had enough grains of truth to sound believable
to anyone who has never served.
The author, Anthony Swofford, is an embarrassment as
a Marine and I pray that anyone who reads this book does not
mistake his warped views as the common Marine mindset, although
he would have you think so. His book is not interesting (just
a collection of his distorted views) nor is it informative about
the scout/sniper arena. He brushes over the training, the hardware,
and the techniques only to show what a bad ass he is and how
everyone and everything around him is of lesser quality than
the epic hero of Anthony Swofford.
The book is about Swofford, a sniper platoon Marine
assigned to 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines during the Gulf War.
He chronicles his thoughts before, during, and after the war
and somehow tries to get the reader to believe that he and his
fellow sniper platoon members are both the scum of society and
the heroic warriors who were the only ones who knew what they
were doing over there. For me, this caused great confusion because
he seems to go out of his way to let you in on his own inflated
view of his importance and then goes on to over-dramatize his
James Dean, loner-rebel image. He obviously has a problem with
authority and as a result has rewritten his own history, putting
himself as the center of the war and all others, mostly Officers,
in secondary and buffoonery roles. He often chronicled his interactions
with them with his direct quotes followed by “What
I wanted to say was…” Yeah, a real hero.
The only thing that is more disturbing than the unending
train of half-truths is the vulgarity he shares with his readers.
Both in language and content, Swofford seems to go out of his
way to infuse the subjects of sex, his own anatomy, vomiting,
and even his imagined liaison between his parents that conceived
his existence. These details are not necessary and are an obvious
attempt to introduce shock value but for that reason and no
other. His conversations between his fellow Marines are canned,
full of clichés, and what an anti-Marine civilian would
imagine a band of idiotic killing machines would talk like and
about. I don’t need to know about his masturbation sessions
or his inclination to piss himself in bootcamp and in combat.
I don’t need to know about the sand in his butt crack
and piss hole. Just about every response I would have to any
paragraph in the book is either “I didn’t need
to know that” or “I’m raising the
bull$%^% flag on that one, Swofford!!!”
My overriding feeling while painfully reading this
book was that it was written by that disgruntled lance corporal
who thinks that the Marine Corps didn’t hand him everything
he wanted. If any portion of this book is true, this man has
some serious problems with reality or has succeeded in selling
out the Marine Corps by writing what he thinks the anti-Marine
segment of America wants to read. Either way, it is for the
good of the Corps that he parted ways long ago but it’s
a shame he chose to suck out some wealth and notoriety at the
expense of the Marine Corps’ good name. Anything that
sells, right Swofford?
I can’t say that everything he writes is a lie
but it seems coincidental that everything he describes is so
cliché among the Marine Corps or situations leaning toward
the extreme. His Drill Instructors slammed his head into a blackboard
until it hit the bricks on the other side. They cursed him loudly,
profusely, and often. He screwed every Officer’s daughter
along with every gorgeous girl in Korea and the Philippines.
He was the center of an epic bar fight in a small town where
he hoisted a man over his head and threw him behind the bar,
breaking the glasses and mirror (someone’s seen Roadhouse
a few too many times). He had a loaded M16 to his own head until
someone walked in and then they went out and ran in boots until
the sun came up. Many of his stories are ramblings of a drama-queen
that spiral into meaningless confusion which is only surprising
considering he has become a literature teacher. Contradictory
statements like "We were here but nowhere.." read
like a bad poetry reading session and like Howard the Duck
and Showgirls, this book promises to become legendary
by virtue of its total vacuum of quality.
He claims to have watched the Super Bowl game on tape
that was sent to a buddy of his when all the sudden a homemade
porno cut in of a woman in a mask. Supposedly at the end, she
rips off her mask and it’s the Marine’s wife who
wants a divorce because she found out he was cheating on her.
I personally heard of this incident, in its various forms, when
I was in Saudi and just as then, this is still the biggest urban
legend in the Corps. It’s a running joke that anyone would
believe this and Swofford passes it off as fact he personally
witnessed. I was waiting to hear about alligators in the shitter-burning
From little things like failing to capitalize “Marine”
and calling the ALL MARINE messages “ALLMAR” instead
of the correct term “ALMAR,” to the major snafus
such as his definition of a Marine, this book gets more things
wrong than I have time, energy, space, or patience to list.
The coup de gras came at the end when he states that
a Marine isn’t really a Marine until he has killed. He
goes on with his verbose assertion that to fully be a true Marine,
one must have taken a life in combat. What really makes this
statement ironic is that he never scored a kill himself. In
fact, his combat record is pretty sparse overall but you’d
never know it from the wise-beyond-his-years bravado and the
supposed theme of his book. Yes, he prepared for war, yes he
waited for war, but other than receiving a little mortar fire
nearby, his “combat experience” consisted of sitting
on a sand hill overlooking the Kuwait airport and watching it
Swofford reminds me of the guy who is just too cool
for everything. He makes himself a brooding hero who reads The
Iliad and absentmindedly chews on the bullet he has on
a necklace. He can out-drink, out-screw, out-PT, out-shoot,
and out-(add your own capability here) anyone on the planet,
especially the sub-mortals that surround him. While everyone
else is enjoying the last bit of comfort in the rear before
moving forward, he is assembling his weapon with a blindfold
on, outside in a tent where real warriors choose to live, in
under 7 seconds. While others are exuberant to be coming home
after the war, he is sulking and carrying his mental scars,
from what I’m not quite sure.
If one adjective could describe this moron it would
have to be the all-encompassing “anti.” It is not
hard to see he is full of himself at the expense of those around
him, childish, and disloyal to the Marine Corps. I, for one,
am glad he is out of my Corps and for the insult he has bestowed
on my brothers and me, he had better hope I never get near one
of his book signings.
is another review for this waste of ink and paper.
Even his fellow Marines
in 2/7 thought this book was crap.
Other reviews and