Even though I read this book some months ago, it’s a book that continues to impress me, and is never far from my thoughts.
I’ve only ever read Gate’s of Fire, and I was expecting basically the sme kind of read – dramatic, emotional, heartfelt, with viceral and hard-hitting battle-scenes and a deep understanding of battle itself and the warrior ethos. I didn’t get exactly what I wanted, but that wasn’t a problem at all. You see, The Profession isn’t the same kind of book, or read, at all; it is similar, yes, but different in important respects.
Where Gates of Fire is the personal (and yes, fictional) account of someone who witnessed one of the most intense (physically and emotionally) battles that has ever taken place, The Profession is the kind of book (even though it, too, is fictional) that reminds me of Mark Bowen’s Black Hawk Down. Why? Well, even though I know it’s fictional (and it takes place some years from now) it lulled me into believing that I was reading the personal account of a mercenary who had really, trully experienced everything that happens in the novel. It was as if I was reading a documentarY the likes of which we see on the History Channel – a personal, and very real account, a memoir, perhaps, of events that actually took place and included living, breathing people.
The effect of this ‘style’ of the novel is pretty damned intense – and scary, too, when taking into account the story’s implications and the author’s vision. I’m sure many readers probably shook there heads in stunned amazement many times while reading this book, as I did, thinking, ‘How the hell did it come to this? How did we let this happen?’ and the realizing, ‘Wait, none of this is true.’ And then the belated thought: ‘YET.’ Just for this accomplishment The Profession is a stand-out novel, juggling that sense of reality so well that I was convinced I was reading a true account; but this isn’t the only reason I enjoyed the book so much.
Steven brings an intense character-focus into this book, too, as he did in Gates of Fire; the main character is a likeable guy who does what he’s good at, not really for a sense of enjoyment or for material gain or social standing, but because he feels that he is exactly where he should and must be – a warrior. His is a noble and honourable and ultimately tragic profession, and he knows this, understands it deep within himself, and as such his motives are pure (soppy as that may sound) and yes, noble, too. He’s made mistakes, he’s not perfect in any way, but he understands the core of who he is and tries to remain true to that even as he is forced onto a path that causes him deep pain. I don’t know if I’m a ‘warrior’, and hopefully I’ll never be forced to find out, but I could sympathize with him, could put myself in his shoes, and experience that warrior-sense, at least for a limited time.
Another reason why this book stands out is that even though some of the technology in the book doesn’t yet exist (at least, in the forms it appears as in the novel), there is a feeling of complete and utter authenticty to it; even the reasons for the existence of many and varied mercenary companies makes sense and, I’ll dare say it, sounds almost prophetic. There’s nothing way-out-there about the tech – it is scary and terrifying and the situations and ‘history’ leading up to the events in the book (as well as the events throughout the book) seem nightmarishly plausible.
Where Gates of Fire made me cheer (even though I knew that there was going to be a slaughter at the end), The Profession is a book that builds momentum in different, and more plausible, and therefor hard-hitting, ways – I was left hoping that Steven’s vision doesn’t come true, although there already seems to be hints and portents enough that may make his vision (or at least the important, world-situation aspects of it) unavoidable.
This is the kind of book that excited me on many levels and has had me thinking about and looking at events around the world differently, and closer that I usually did. It’s a warning, but it’s also an adventure, and a sensitive vision of what warfare and being a warrior means.
8 / 10
To order your copies of The Profession, click here for Amazon US, here for Amazon UK, and for readers in South Africa, here’s the link for Exclusive Books. For more info on Steven and his work, head on over to his website here.
Until next time,