Sunday, 11 April 2010

Courage, Sacrifice and Brotherhood

I'm reading THE SOLDIER: a History of Courage, Sacrifice and Brotherhood, by Darren Moore, and I'd recommend it. It's a fascinating and thoughtful book.

It covers the experience of soldiers from the Napoleonic Wars to the present day, with many personal accounts. Every possible aspect is covered, including what makes soldiers reluctant to kill - their perception of the enemy as being like them - and what makes them want to - the death of their comrades. There is one heartbreaking photograph among the illustrations, of a soldier comforting another whose buddy has been killed, which alone is worth the price of the book.

I often feel, when reading battle scenes in fantasy novels, that it's all too obvious the authors have zero knowledge of war, fighting, or the psychology of the soldier, and their imaginings are wide of the mark. For them, this book could be the answer.


  1. Hi

    Thanks for the recommendation - will have a look for it in waterstones!

    p.s. Now I'm pretty biased but I always think that Terry Pratchett's "battle scenes" in his discworld novels speaks volumes than any graphic depiction in fiction. I think it's because he writes as one appalled by violence and also because he "humanizes" his protagonists so each death and killing is poignant and powerful.

    take care

  2. I must have another go at Terry Pratchett.

    Startrek provides some of the most fictitious conflict, where you know for a certainty that none of the main characters will get more than a graze fighting hostile aliens. Whereas the new guy in the red top - well, how comforting that we haven't had time to get to know him.

    But that's for another post...

  3. Hey, the aliens once took Spock's Brain! And Kirk definitely had scratches on his torse in one episode. Plus, the red shirts knew the risks when they signed up. I do wonder why the art of camoflage has disappeared in the future though.

  4. I bow to your superior knowledge of the series, Richie - but I bet Spock got his brain back in good working order by the end of the episode.

    Have you seen this: ?

  5. Another interesting post, Lexi, and rather pertinent to me and AFRIKA REICH as the main character is a soldier. Even before I started writing my book I wanted to avoid any gung-ho heroics and did a lot of research into soldiers and how they cope with the lives they lead. This included plenty of first person accounts. Those from the Spanish Civil War and mercenaries fighting in Africa in the 1970s were the most helpful, as well as Dunkirk – see previous comment!

    There seemed a number of ways to go: the half-crazy who seemed to enjoy the violence; those who were shattered by the experience. What captured my interest most though, were the soldiers who were essentially moral men but had become de-sensitised to the world they inhabited. To them killing and violence was just the means to an end to survive.

    Of course, foremost AFRIKA REICH is a thriller, a work of entertainment, so I didn’t have the luxury of exploring this theme in great depth. Nevertheless I hope I’ve captured something that real soldiers would find psychologically credible.

    I’ve added Darren Moore’s book to my Amazon wishlist and I’m sure it will be a worthy addition to the piles of books I already have for researching TAR2. Talking of which, time I got back to work...

  6. I'd imagine one would need to become desensitized to a degree as a soldier.

    I have wondered about the effect on Roman soldiers, not of fighting, but of crucifying people. To inflict such a horrible and long-drawn-out death on helpless fellow humans must have been traumatic and brutalizing, much worse than the kill or be killed of warfare.

    By comparison, a firing squad seems humane.

  7. I tried to research how real life Onion Festival Queens felt whilst putting bits of a keyboard up the nose of the enemy. Surprisingly there is very little to be found on the subject, even in Wikipedia.

    Actually, I think the people who need to read that book are political "leaders" who send young men and women into harms way on an appallingly regular basis.

  8. I'm sure you got the emotions of the Onion Festival Queen in Boomerang bang to rights, Alan.

    Agreed about political leaders. At least Alexander the Great went into battle with his men, right in the vanguard. I expect that's one reason his name has lived on.

  9. Hey Lexi, just wanted to let you know I've awarded you a Beautiful Blogger Award. Details on my blog.

  10. Thank you, Sandra, what a kind thought :o)