Excerpt from The Vortex by Scott Carney , Jason Miklian, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Vortex

A True Story of History's Deadliest Storm, an Unspeakable War, and Liberation

by Scott Carney , Jason Miklian

The Vortex by Scott Carney , Jason Miklian X
The Vortex by Scott Carney , Jason Miklian
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2022, 528 pages

    Mar 14, 2023, 272 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Peggy Kurkowski
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Print Excerpt

"Hafiz Uddin Ahmad! My savior!" The major stuck out his hand, and Hafiz reflexively grasped it. "I'd like to get right to the point. What would it take to sign you up with us? I see how you play. The army team would be unstoppable."

"So you keep telling me."

"Listen, you know it's my job to make sure the army has star players. You're on the national team, of course, but between us, I think you're the best player on it. It would be a shame to see all that talent go to waste. I'm giving you a chance to keep playing for another decade or more. Think about it. We'd bring you in as a junior officer with a steady salary and plenty of room to grow. You'd get to travel the world, keep yourself in the game, and best of all, be of service to your country." The smooth-talking major clearly had years of experience in pampering young men's egos.

Hafiz considered this, then shrugged. "I've already told you. My father wants me to get a real job."

"What could be more real—and respectable—than the army? Is stamping invoices in some stuffy office your idea of a real job?" The major eyed Hafiz knowingly, pausing for a bite of singara to let that visual sink in.

There were definite similarities between life in a military unit and his current morning-till-dusk practice schedule. But while a good fight might quicken his blood on the football field, he didn't see anything worth dying for.

In twenty years, would he be in the major's shoes, pleading with potential recruits while sweating through a wool uniform at a student hangout? Was that the best he could hope for? Would being in the army ever compare to the feeling of thirty thousand people in Dacca Stadium cheering just for you? Could anything?

Yet there was something else to consider—a loophole that could keep his dream of playing on the field at least partially alive—joining the army would be in service to the country. The army was an honorable profession. The money was regular enough to start a family. Sure, the national team's pittance made him a rich student but it would never scale up to adult wages. With hard work and dedication he would rise through the ranks. His father might even like that he'd joined. Maybe Hafiz really could have the best of both worlds.

As the soldier and star talked, a boisterous crowd of students made their way into the cramped canteen. Their smiles faded when they saw the uniformed major munching away. West Pakistani soldiers were not welcome in their de facto organizational headquarters.

The major looked at Hafiz pointedly as the students ordered tea and fried snacks on credit. "Here's another thing to consider: The army is the one place in the nation that's above politics. There's no difference between East Pakistan and West Pakistan in our ranks. We're soldiers together. There's none of what you saw at today's game."

The major's words hit their mark. Hafiz thought back to the disappointment on his teammates' faces when the student activists forced them to sit on the bench in the second half.

The major nodded at Hafiz. "Well? Shall we go for it?"

"Thank you, sir, but no. I need to study."

"Think about it, at least. It's a great life." The major stood up and left, passing the banyan on his way to the nearby military barracks.

The major's offer stuck in Hafiz's head long after he'd finished his tea. He thought about it as he walked across campus to his dorm. He thought about it as he climbed up the stairs of his redbrick dorm, Iqbal Hall, with its ornate facade that harkened back to the fragile imperial glory of the British era. He thought about it as he unlatched the door to the austere quarters that only a student could love—a cramped and mildewy room that epitomized Dacca's ever-present lack of resources. He thought about it all night as he lay awake, staring at the damp concrete ceiling. He thought about it every evening in the weeks that followed—each time he grabbed a novel off his shelf instead of his prep book, then guiltily put it back a few hours later, heavy with the knowledge that he was wasting his precious last days of cramming. He thought about it while his father, his family, and the local imam gathered a hundred miles to the south to pray for his success on the civil service exam. And Hafiz thought about it on the morning of the test itself. That's when he finally knew what he had to do.

Excerpted from The Vortex by Scott Carney and Jason Miklian. Copyright © 2022 by Scott Carney and Jason Miklian. Excerpted by permission of Ecco. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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