Ranger Games: Book summary and reviews of Ranger Games by Ben Blum

Ranger Games

A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime

by Ben Blum

Ranger Games by Ben Blum X
Ranger Games by Ben Blum
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2017
    672 pages
    Genre: True Crime

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Book Summary

Intricate, heartrending, and morally urgent, Ranger Games is a crime story like no other.

Alex Blum was a good kid, a popular high school hockey star from a tight-knit Colorado family. He had one goal in life: endure a brutally difficult selection program, become a U.S. Army Ranger, and fight terrorists for his country. He poured everything into achieving his dream. In the first hours of his final leave before deployment to Iraq, Alex was supposed to fly home to see his family and beloved girlfriend. Instead, he got into his car with two fellow soldiers and two strangers, drove to a local bank in Tacoma, and committed armed robbery.

The question that haunted the entire Blum family was: Why? Why would he ruin his life in such a spectacularly foolish way?

At first, Alex insisted he thought the robbery was just another exercise in the famously daunting Ranger program. His attorney presented a case based on the theory that the Ranger indoctrination mirrored that of a cult. 

In the midst of his own personal crisis, and in the hopes of helping both Alex and his splintering family cope, Ben Blum, Alex's first cousin, delved into these mysteries, growing closer to Alex in the process.  As he probed further, Ben began to question not only Alex, but the influence of his superior, Luke Elliot Sommer, the man who planned the robbery. A charismatic combat veteran, Sommer's manipulative tendencies combined with a magnetic personality pulled Ben into a relationship that put his loyalties to the test.      

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. This engrossing true-crime saga follows a twisting labyrinth of confused and suspect motivations ... an unsettling dissection of the moral corruptions, small and great, that bedevil the culture of military honor." - Publishers Weekly

"A lighthearted romp à la Ocean's Eleven it's not, but Blum's well-wrought account suggests that any crime is possible so long as it's made out to be a game." - Kirkus

"A detailed, sobering account of people doing what they believe is right in the face of injustice. For fans of biographies, military stories, true crime, and podcasts such as Serial and S-Town." - Library Journal

"[T]here is nothing simple about Blum's book. It turns out to be a labyrinthine, utterly engrossing meditation on matters as seemingly disparate as the perils of loyalty, the seductive force of mathematical certainty, the toxicity of "honor," the Stanford Prison Experiment, the weirdness of daytime television, and the dangerous power of family mythology. It is an astonishing book, unlike anything else I have ever read." - Jon Krakauer, New York Times bestselling author of Missoula and Into Thin Air

"Ranger Games is a rare and totally original work of nonfiction. The odd characters and dangerous situations live vibrantly in these pages and the stakes are always high...Once you start reading you won't put it down." - Anthony Swofford, New York Times bestselling author of Jarhead and Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails: A Memoir

"Ben Blum's achievement in this relentlessly gripping book is to make an incredible story entirely credible. If many of the serial revelations and twists are subtle and nuanced rather than spectacular that only adds to the sense of his narrative command and assurance." - Geoff Dyer, National Book Critics Circle Award Winner and author of Otherwise Known as the Human Condition and White Sands

"...the book is not only about the crime or the family its tears apart, it is about the strange pathologies of North American culture, a particularly masculine form of madness, and the mysterious, timeless relationship of charm and evil. It should be taught in "cultural studies" classes across the country." - Mary Gaitskill, author of The Mare and Somebody With a Little Hammer

"A sprawling American saga, Ranger Games will captivate, transport and madden readers all at once ... This is a special story and a superb work of narrative nonfiction." - Matt Gallagher, author of Youngblood

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Reader Reviews

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Dpfaef

Ranger Danger
Who would have thought that a newly minted Army Ranger would drive the get away car in a bank robbery. Why would a newly minted Army Ranger do such a stupid thing? Ben Blum, cousin to the newly minted Army Ranger spends a goodly amount of time trying to answer that question.

To be an Army Ranger was all Alex ever wanted. Two weeks before his scheduled leave for Iraq, and days after he finishes the grueling Ranger training he climbs into his car and drives three other people to a Bank of America in Seattle. They rob the bank of about fifty-two thousand dollars. Why would Alex have done this having just achieved everything he wanted in life.

That is the question Ben Blum tries to answer. In a rather long convoluted story Ben recounts his search to understand why his cousin would have done this. What makes this book interesting is Ben a mathematician by training, is also having a crisis of his own. Knowing that mathematics alone will not answer his own questions, he delves into his cousins misfortune to find out what made him do something so totally out of character, hoping to better understand himself.

It is an inmate study how a person ends up doing a totally crazy thing. I think each reader will need to decide for themselves why this happened.

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Author Information

Ben Blum

Ben Blum was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. He holds a PhD in computer science from the University of California Berkeley, where he was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, and an MFA in fiction from New York University, where he was awarded the New York Times Foundation Fellowship. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and stepdaughter.

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