Just received a review copy of new author Luke Larson’s novel Senator’s Son. I can probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of works of fiction that I have reviewed at ZP, but two things caught my attention about Senator’s Son:
First, the novel is historical realism with a theme of COIN. Secondly, the author Luke Larson is a decorated Marine officer with two tours in Iraq under his belt. Flipping the pages reveals a gritty, sometimes humorous, staccato writing style and military/strategy/policy issues that are discussed here, or at SWJ or Abu Muqawama come to life through the eyes of still learning practitioners. I’m looking forward to reading Senator’s Son and reviewing it in full in late February or early March ( need to finish Carr’s Inside Cyber Warfare first).
Setting aside the book itself, something else occurred to me – that we have reached the point where the war is now appearing not as news, but as literature; Iraq and Afghanistan are proving to be culturally transformative wars for America in ways that the Gulf War or the Korean War were not.
If you consider WWI, the Great War represented an existential crisis for Western Civilization that found expression in the Lost Generation and, in Germany, the polar opposite novels All Quiet on the Western Front and Storm of Steel as well as Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. The Spanish Civil War electrified international opinion, foreshadowing as it did the ideological death-match of the 20th century, and yielded Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia. WWII and the Vietnam War have generated an ocean of histories down to the minutest detail, as well as their share of novels, short stories and movies. It is noteworthy, that most of the time, literature and history followed the conclusion of peace, be it in victory or defeat.
In our time, the books on the war in Iraq, or Afghanistan or against terrorism are arriving while the conflict is still in full throttle, in time to shape the perceptions of policymakers and the public to an unprecedented extent. Something is happening out there, an inchoate need for answers or reassurance that writers are attempting to answer. Most of these books so far have been non-fiction, journalistic instant histories salted with examples of policy analysis and war memoirs.
Senator’s Son marks a new turn toward a wave of fiction addressing the crucible of America’s current wars. Literature can shape a nation’s psyche more profoundly than even the most soberly researched work of history.