In the current issue of the London Review of Books, Andrew O'Hagan looks at two bestselling British war thrillers--Andy McNab's Crossfire and Chris Ryan's Strike Back--and contends that "it is only in more recent times that the task of writing novels about battle has fallen chiefly to bad writers."
Of note particularly for our purposes: O'Hagan spends nearly half of his review setting up an analysis of the current generation of soldiers by discussing the ubiquity of videogames, from Halo 2 to Manhunt 2 (currently the target of censors in the UK).
Boys will be boys, and men will be boys too, but it's arguable that both the skill and the ideology of the modern Western soldier have been shall we say, sharpened by years of frenetic and dedicated service in the box bedroom...Many of the British and American forces now deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan grew up on computer games and their understanding of their mission, their power, their enemy and their equipment may be highly coloured by the virtual lives they have lived and the vivid, hardened sense of worlds changed and prisoners taken. If you ask them, a great many young servicemen feel they are performing a duty of civilisation, an idea they did not learn simply by glancing over the adjacent shoulders of Bush and Blair...
Men who don't ordinarily read have come in great numbers to love the insiderish bravado of McNab and Chris Ryan. Their books are driven by stereotype and cartoon violence, by idiocy, prejudice and unreality, which is why they are inadvertent masterpieces of social realism, for in their garish video-game manners they enclose their subject.
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