Like his previous work, The Fighters immerses readers in know-how and gravitas, bringing together a collection of war testimonies by infantry grunts, fighter pilots and hospital corpsmen. The battle fragments can’t provide a full picture of the wars they portray, but together they do form something else: a dark and honest reckoning with just what it is we’ve done since that empty blue-skied day was filled with smoke nearly two decades ago ... Mr. Chivers crafts a vast and absorbing mosaic ... Themes of betrayal and unintended consequence serve as the book’s marrow ... Still, acts of great courage rise in The Fighters ... His writing shines with careful understatement and a muted irony ... And when Mr. Chivers does let it rip stylistically, you notice ... This is not a book that details the strategies of generals and presidents ... I’m more than sympathetic to this approach but still found myself wondering if some strategic perspective would have broadened the book ... With breadth and raw truth, The Fighters lays bare just how exacting and brutal that duty [of fighting in U.S. wars] has been.
C. J. Chivers, a senior writer for The New York Times and a former Marine infantry officer, begins his new book with a description of an American weapon, equipped with GPS sensors and a guidance system, hitting 'precisely the wrong place' and killing and mutilating a family of women and children on the Afghan steppe as a consequence. But Chivers’s narrative has only begun to slam you in the gut; later on, the author captures the psychological effect the errant bomb has on the Marines at the scene. Indeed, because of the way the stories and characters spool into one another with mathematical intensity, and the second-by-second in-your-face descriptions of prolonged battles from a sergeant’s eye view, The Fighters: Americans in Combat in Afghanistan and Iraq could be the most powerful indictment yet of America’s recent Middle East wars.
In The Fighters, New York Times reporter C.J. Chivers has threaded a delicate needle in telling the story of six U.S. service members and their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. He uses them to walk us through the bigger picture progression of the wars. He writes that his mission is to 'demystify' those who have served on the front lines. But he is also unapologetic in hoping that their stories reveal something larger: that the misguided policies that sent them abroad have failed ... Chivers focuses on six combatants — an F-14 pilot, a Green Beret sergeant, a Navy corpsman, a helicopter pilot, an Army infantryman and a Marine lieutenant ... In these kind of accounts, the number of characters involved can often result in the reader getting confused. That may be one criticism of Bowden’s book, for instance. Chivers, though, is disciplined in keeping us focused on the subjects. It’s a testament to his reporting skills that he found such effective and willing subjects to profile and a testament to his writing skills that he did not stray from his pointed narrative arc.
The Fighters tells its six stories in gripping detail ... These accounts work an irresistible emotional effect on the reader ... Chivers has produced a masterful work of atmospheric reporting, and it's a book that will have every reader asking—with varying degrees of urgency or anger or despair—the final question Chivers himself asks: 'How many lives had these wars wrecked?'
I was hesitant to pick up The Fighters ... What a mistake that would have been. This book is remarkable ... The Fighters belongs alongside those volumes, but it achieves its own broad scope by relying on the more intimate canvas of individual experience ... Chivers doesn’t shy away from the moral complexity of volunteerism. What does it say about us that we chose to fight? Chivers gives the thrill of combat and its horror equal time ... a memorial in pages.
In The Fighters,...journalist C.J. Chivers narrates the stories of six combatants, peeling back the curtain on these individuals’ sacrifices, their commitment despite their nagging uncertainty about the morality of the war, and their lives after service ... Chivers...brings to life...combatants, caught in a web of circumstances beyond their immediate control, who are determined to serve America and the country in which they find themselves assigned to duty. The Fighters offers an absorbing and indelible account of war and its costs.
After 9/11, the author risked his personal safety to experience combat up close as a journalist in Afghanistan and Iraq, making excellent use of the observational powers he honed as a Marine during the earlier Persian Gulf War. Chivers ably relates the details of the U.S. military incursions into those two countries based on the thinking of the six combatants featured in the narrative. Each of the men is at the center of at least two chapters out of 13, including the epilogue. By returning to individual sagas throughout the book, the author captures not only isolated moments, but also evolving thoughts as U.S. military and civilian commanders make countless mistakes in their goals and their tactics ... Given his background, Chivers certainly did not set out to write a book emphasizing the foolishness of American actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. But that is the story that emerged from his painstaking, courageous reporting, and readers will be thankful for his work.
...Chivers focuses on six combatants—an F-14 pilot, a Green Beret sergeant, a Navy corpsman, a helicopter pilot, an Army infantryman, and a Marine lieutenant. He briefly relates why each one joined the military and what happened to them after coming home, but the heart of the book is in-depth, intense reporting of their in-the-trenches tours of duty. ... This fast-paced, action-heavy work of long-form war journalism has bestseller written all over it.