The Warriors by Tom Young
Reviewed by Ron Camarda
I finished reading The Warriors by Tom Young on the 50th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. March on Washington and as the violence in Syria goes beyond diabolical. This past year also included the horrific bombings of the Boston Marathon. Young dares to address and unmask a little more of the inherent behavior of human beings divided over race, language, religion, and self-righteousness. Even though the Balkan War attained a level of outward peace, the war within the human heart continues to smolder, often hidden beneath the complicated forest bogged down by the fog of war, racial tensions, and greed. Our own U.S. civil war was supposedly concluded 150 years ago, but the divide between north and south, race, religions and greed still smolders in the ruins of our not so united states. “Serbian elders remind us that no group is ever on the wrong side.”
Tom Young is the prophet who writes a thrilling and profound parable of truth. There were times as I read this book that I had to put it down because I was terrified by where it was threatening to go. I have always feared that terrorists would make martyrs of their own people to further their own distorted, zealous and radical views. Young suggests this, but he raises the stakes when the plot is to destroy one’s own faith leaders, historically significant buildings, and one’s own soldiers.
Just this week, Pope Francis in an impassioned statement with regards to Syria reiterated previous appeals for all sides in the civil war to put down their arms and “listen to the voice of their conscience and with courage take up the way of negotiations.”
With remarkable insight, the book probes the human heart and how it can be stirred into a frenzy of hatred and disastrous reactivity. It also speaks of the everyday struggles of soldiers both male and female who struggle with vocational choices, like when veteran Sgt Major Gold wrestled with her choice to work in Afghanistan as a civilian or use the G.I. Bill for studies in philosophy.
Even though fictional, Young helped me to understand the Balkan War and lesson my ignorance. Young points out how raw emotions and fear without reasonability often lead to obscene atrocities. I was even honest enough to admit my sadness at the demise of the bad people. Is it possible to have a slightly better understanding of victim, enemy civilian, and terrorist?
I gleaned from Young that the further we distance ourselves from ground zero, the easier it is to avoid the emotional conflict and disgust of all wars and the grisly consequences. He does this by allowing us a prismatic look into the thoughts of his warriors on both sides of the conflict.
Incorporating the blunt force of modern warfare, Young presents an image that forces us to ponder our moral, ethical and philosophical reasoning, while at the same time encouraging us to manage our emotional outrage and terror. The story felt so real I desired to respond with a similar decry as the pope in reference to images of victims in Syria. “With utmost firmness, I condemn the use of chemical weapons. I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart.”
Chaplains, warriors, civilians caught in the crossfire of war, and political leaders could benefit from wrestling with the profound and disturbing thoughts within this story. On page 138, the following dialogue between the officer and the veteran sergeant major is one of many examples of this exquisite writing.
“I was pretty young back then,” Parson said. “I guess I just couldn’t reconcile a world where those things could still happen.” He went on to say he’d seen awful things in Iraq and Afghanistan, too. But he was older and more jaded then. Bosnia had first taught him that cruelty persisted in human nature like a dominant gene. “I don’t know about philosophy and history and religion; I just fly airplanes. But it seems the more I learn about what we’re capable of, the worse it gets. I don’t see how you stand it.”
Gold liked it that he’d said “what we’re capable of.” Not this group or that group. He might feel older and more jaded, but he was also older and wiser.
The Warriors would make a great movie, but a movie would miss the true value of the story. The truth lies in the thoughts of all of the “warriors”, good, bad and mixed up. Young allows us a glimpse into the thoughts and emotions of the warriors. After reading this thriller/mystery, much remains unresolved in my heart, as it should be. A war is never over until it is over in every human soul… with no exceptions.
ISBN / ASIN 978-0-399-15847-6
Synopsis: Lieutenant Colonel Michael Parson has seen plenty of action, so he’s happy with his new assignment as safety officer at a Kyrgyzstan air base. It’s a pretty laid-back way to spend the next year. Or so he thought. On his second day, a C-27 crashes on the runway with a load of electronic gear–and opium. Recruiting his old companion Sergeant Major Sophia Gold as interpreter, Parson investigates not only the crash but also the source of the cargo. The answers they find will lead them into a conflict as lethal as any they have known.
A new Balkan war is brewing, driven by a man of ruthless ambition. Parson himself flew during the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo, so he’s seen their horrors firsthand. But neither he nor Gold has seen anything like what’s about to happen now.