Lt. Col. Michael Parson Series, No 3
July 19, 2012 / ISBN 978-0399158469
by Elise Cooper
Thomas Young's latest novel, The Renegades is a must read
for all those interested in Afghanistan. Just as in real life, he
delves into how extremists in the Taliban attempt to thwart efforts
by NATO forces to deliver aid to villages devastated by an earthquake.
He also shows the desperation of the villagers with an intricate
part of the plot that has the splinter group, Black Crescent, kidnapping
young boys to fight against the NATO forces.
The plot is action packed pitting this Taliban group against American
and Afghanistan troops, notably the brave rescue and air helicopter
units. Young drew on his experiences as a flight engineer for the
Air National Guard, having gone to Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, and
Kosovo. Among his achievements was earning two Air Medals. He commented,
"A buddy of mine spent time with the helicopter unit as an
advisor to the Afghan Air Force. He told me he had great admiration
and respect, and considered them very dedicated. I wanted to show
how helicopters currently play such a large role there. It is needed
because of the nature of the kinds of flying they have to do."
The characters are interesting and very well developed. LT. Col.
Michael Parson, in charge of the rescue effort, knows the nuts and
bolts of the military, a street-smart military person. Sergeant
Major Sophia Gold, an interpreter, is an intellectual who is philosophical
and well read. Young interestingly shows this through quotes from
various authors such as Dickerson and Burke as well as a verse from
the Talmud. A supporting character who does not always follow the
rules of engagement but whom the reader will cheer for is Gunnery
Sergeant Blount. Young noted, "As I write I let the characters
tell the stories. You may find this hard to believe, but from one
chapter to another, I don't know what will happen until I sit down
to write. For example, the Parson and Gold characters have not told
me to put them together into a romantic relationship. It would be
difficult to keep putting them in these dynamic relationships if
they got married."
He seems to be editorializing to show the realistic side of the
Taliban. Through his writings he leaves nothing to the reader's
imagination regarding the violent ways of the Taliban. Young wanted
"to inform about the nature of the enemy as well as show the
extraordinary sacrifice of American and Afghan service members.
Life is doubly tough for women. This is one reason why the country
should not lapse back into Taliban rule. Hopefully through the characters
conscience they allow people to think about what is happening, why
it is happening, and put it into context."
He gave a heads up about his next novel, whose working title is
The War Merchant. This book will have other settings and situations
in which to put his characters. The plot surrounds a former officer
in the Bosnia-Serbia army who has turned to arms dealing in order
to re-start the war there.
Young uses his novels as a sounding board to "convey the experience
of the modern day service men and women. I want to show the mind-set
and motivation for who is the enlisted person. Why did they do it,
knowing they will go into harms way." In The Renegades
he did that and a lot more with a very insightful novel.
Reviews of other titles in this series
Mullah's Storm, No 1