Summary and book reviews of The Forever War by Dexter Filkins

The Forever War

By Dexter Filkins

The Forever War
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2008,
    384 pages.
    Paperback: Jun 2009,
    384 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Stacey Brownlie

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Book Summary

From the front lines of the battle against Islamic fundamentalism, a searing, unforgettable book that captures the human essence of the greatest conflict of our time.

Through the eyes of Dexter Filkins, the prizewinning New York Times correspondent whose work was hailed by David Halberstam as “reporting of the highest quality imaginable,” we witness the remarkable chain of events that began with the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s, continued with the attacks of 9/11, and moved on to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Filkins’s narrative moves across a vast and various landscape of amazing characters and astonishing scenes: deserts, mountains, and streets of carnage; a public amputation performed by Taliban; children frolicking in minefields; skies streaked white by the contrails of B-52s; a night’s sleep in the rubble of Ground Zero.

We embark on a foot patrol through the shadowy streets of Ramadi, venture into a torture chamber run by Saddam Hussein. We go into the homes of suicide bombers and into street-to-street fighting with a battalion of marines. We meet Iraqi insurgents, an American captain who loses a quarter of his men in eight days, and a young soldier from Georgia on a rooftop at midnight reminiscing about his girlfriend back home. A car bomb explodes, bullets fly, and a mother cradles her blinded son.

Like no other book, The Forever War allows us a visceral understanding of today’s battlefields and of the experiences of the people on the ground, warriors and innocents alike. It is a brilliant, fearless work, not just about America’s wars after 9/11, but ultimately about the nature of war itself.

Only This

They led the man to a spot at the middle of the field. A soccer field, grass, with mainly dirt around the center where the players spent most of the game. There was a special section for the handicapped on the far side, a section for women. The orphans were walking up and down the bleachers on my side selling candy and cigarettes.

A couple of older men carried whips. They wore grenade launchers on their backs.

The people are coming, a voice was saying into the loudspeaker, and the voice was right, the people were streaming in and taking their seats. Not with any great enthusiasm, as far as I could tell; they were kind of shuffling in. I probably had more enthusiasm than anybody. I had a special seat; they’d put me in the grass at the edge of the field. In America, I would have been on the sidelines, at the fifty yard line with the coaches. Come sit with us, they’d said; you are our honored guest.

A white Toyota Hi-Lux drove onto the field and four men wearing green ...

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    National Book Critics Circle Award
    2009

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Reviews

BookBrowse

For anyone who despairs, as I have, of ever understanding the nations and events which orbit around the date September 11, 2001, The Forever War is part antidote, part exacerbation. As in the rest of life, the more we learn, the less we really know. Yet, this is the great value of the book. Filkins shows us that black and white ideologies – political, moral or otherwise – may be easy to stand by in our comfortable, peaceful world, but they become much harder to proclaim from the other side of the world, in the grey heart of war.   (Reviewed by Stacey Brownlie).

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Media Reviews
Esquire

Unvarnished and unforgettable.

The New York Times - Lee H. Hamilton

His prose is as blunt as it is powerful. Iraqis, and Afghanis, have spoken for themselves, and Mr. Filkins has listened carefully.

The New York Times Book Review - Robert Stone

Dexter Filkins, one of The New York Times's most talented reporters, employs a fine journalistic restraint, by which I mean he does not force irony or paradox but leaves that process to the reader. Nor does he speculate on what he does not see. These are worthy attributes, and whether their roots are in journalistic discipline or not they serve this unforgettable narrative superbly.

The Washington Post - Bing West

These stories are accurate but not antiseptic, detached but not uncaring. And they force the reader to reflect on how fragile civilization is and how fortunate we Americans are.

Vanity Fair - Elissa Schappell

Brutally intimate, compassionate, often poetic accounts of the battle against Islamic fundamentalism...destined to become a classic.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Filkins...is widely regarded as among the finest war correspondents of this generation.

Kirkus Reviews

Sharing his deeply humbling, transforming journey, the author tempers numbing details of slaughter and carnage with affecting human stories.

Reader Reviews
Cindy Warner

Dexter's introduces his photographer Ash in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
[Editor's note: The introduction to Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is written by Dexter Filkins, author of The Forever War. As many, if not all, the photos in the book relate to The Forever War, the review of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is included here. Would ...   Read More

Cindy Warner

Laish Laish Habibi (why, why friend?)
Finished first reading of The Forever War just now after picking it up in San Francisco on my bike Thursday night. Took leap of faith and paid the $25 based on the integrity of the groups and media you have been talking to as well as that of the NY ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Very Short Histories of
Afghanistan & Iraq


Iraq and Afghanistan are countries with deep histories and multiple ethnic and religious citizen groups.

The geographical area that today is Iraq is regarded by historians as the site of some of the earliest human civilizations, including the Sumerians (who lived between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Mesopotamia, a Greek word meaning land between the two rivers).

The division between the Shia and Sunni elements of Islam began sometime in the late 600s after Arab tribes had taken control of the area from Iranian rulers. After an approximately 500 year Arab dynasty and intervening conflicts with Turkish warriors, the land that is now Iraq became part of the Ottoman ...

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