peteg's blog - noise - books - 2017 12 25 BenBlum RangerGames

Ben Blum: Ranger Games.

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Kindle. Blum has a PhD in CS out of UCB but decided after a stretch of microbio postdockery in Seattle to do an MFA in New York, and of course now he lives in Brooklyn etc. I picked this up on the strength of Jennifer Senior's review. The writing is OK, the structure is OK, but a substantial edit would have reduced it by a third and made it so much stronger. Like many modern books it contains just about everything the author dug up during an extensive research period, and there is much irrelevant colour (the author's private life; his grandmother's birthday party; the separations and divorces; the random fine-grained details). Ultimately it sits uncomfortably between memoir, journalism, amateur psychologizing, military history and family shenanigans; jack of none, master of none.

Most irritating about this book is that we are supposed to hold as fact that all-American good guy and newly-minted US Ranger Alex Blum was brainwashed into slavish obedience by the US military, and used by psychopath Specialist Sommer in the execution of a bank robbery in Tacoma, until we're not. My irritation was largely that Sommer is never shown to have a plausible motive for the robbery. The iterative deepening device is very trying. There's nothing new said about the extremity of the US Army training procedures (hazing rituals) or exaggerations by those subject to them, or the inability to be real with oneself — we've seen that all before in the movies cited in this book. The entire Dr Phil sequence is pointless. The legal maneuvering is, as Blum observed, basically a matter of money.