Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mass Casualties by Spc Michael Anthony

Mass Casualties: A Young Medic's True Story of Death, Deception and Dishonor in Iraq
by Spc. Michael Anthony
Copyright 2009
Adams Media - NF/Memoir
234 pages

Mass Casualties is the story of a young man who grew up in a military family and signed up to join the U. S. Army as soon as he graduated high school. Because he tested well, Anthony pretty much had his choice of what type of job he'd like to have. He trained to be a surgical assistant because of the above-average pay and signing bonus.

After training, he was shipped to Northern Iraq, where he began to get to know the people he would work with and to learn his job. He was quickly surprised to find that the man in charge of scheduling was a control freak who had no sense of how to create a schedule. During Anthony's first weeks in Iraq, he and several other people were switched from one shift to another on a daily basis. Soon, they were unable to sleep at all, their bodies confused as to when it was time to rest. That poor scheduling was just the beginning of a difficult deployment in Iraq in two different locations with the same wily but inept commander.

Mass Casualties wasn't quite what I expected it to be, but it's an interesting memoir. There's a lot less focus on the surgery Anthony was involved in and the patients than the full experience of being deployed. You do hear about quite a few of the cases he dealt with and how they had to balance the use of a minimal number of surgical space when there were mass casualties coming in. But, the real focus is on relationships, everyday frustrations and and problems with the Army.

What I loved best about the book was that you really get a sense of what it's like to live in a war zone and the immediacy of having to run for a bunker during bombings. The bombings were more frequent and closer -- with bombs actually hitting inside their compound -- than I expected. When bombs were falling, the reading was pretty intense.

I disliked the fact that the author shared graphic detail about the sexual escapades of people around him. Yes, it was part of his experience. But, it's something I avoid reading about and before accepting this book for review, I read some reviews at Amazon. I asked the tour host if the book was as graphic about sex as described in a particular review and she said it was not that bad. I disagree. Mass Casualties isn't a book that can be renamed "Army Sexcapades," but there is a lot about the sexual activity of those around Anthony and anyone who dislikes reading about such things should be forewarned.

In fact, Anthony described all this activity because it was something that upset him. It's against Army regulations for people to engage in sexual activity but it was rampant and a large number of those whom he knew to be having affairs had spouses back home. Anthony was appalled at this behavior and that's undoubtedly why he seems so focused on it, particularly later in the book.

3.5/5 - A solid memoir and exposé of life in the military that looks specifically at the frustrations and issues of life in the army. Points off for going into a little too much detail about the sexual escapades of those around him because some of it was just flat disgusting. Too Much Information. Otherwise, I really enjoyed the book.

I received this book for review from Pump Up Your Book Promotion.

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  1. I'd be intrigued to read about a medic's perspective, though the 'medic' aspect seems to be less than you would expect, judging by your review. Still, though forewarned about the content, I might give this a shot.

    I recently checked out a book about the Iraq war from the library called One Bullet Away by Nathaniel Fick, who was a Marine officer.

  2. Christy,

    There's a bit less about the medic aspect than expected and more about the general experience of doing a medic's job and living that life in a war zone. I guess that's the best way to put it. I love war memoirs (esp. WWII) so I enjoyed the book, although I could have stood to hear a little less about who was sleeping with whom.

    I haven't heard of One Bullet Away. I'll have to look that up, thanks!

  3. I'm not sure this would be the book for me.

  4. Kathy,

    Probably not, although I can't say for sure. You do like memoirs, don't you?

  5. I like the idea of a memoir on that topic but I would be put off by the TMI stuff too. :)

  6. It sounds like a book I would like to read, if not for all the graphic descriptions. So maybe I'll pass on this one.

  7. Brittanie,

    Yep, you'd find that TMI business annoying. But, it's always fascinating to me to see what people live through in a war zone. That's what I enjoyed most.


    I'm sure it just depends on the individual, but I don't like reading about the sex lives of strangers. I'm not going to be doing tours (at least, not for a while) in 2010 but if/when I get back to them I'm unlikely to say yes to that particular tour host.

  8. Thank you for your insightful review, Nancy. I'm always on the look out for reviews like this one to see if a particular book might be good for my dad. Now that the Christmas shopping is out of the way, I have to start thinking of his birthday this next month. :-) I'm not really sure how he feels about reading books about Iraq. He was a career military man and served during the Vietnam War. He loves memoirs about Vietnam and the wars before it.

    I probably would be put off by the sex too. I don't mind sex in books to a degree, but I don't like it to be overwhelming.

  9. Wendy,

    Did you hear that Anna's doing the War Through the Generations challenge, again, in 2010 -- and this time it will focus on the Vietnam War? Imagine the ideas you can get for your dad from all the posts that will show up!

    This was my first book about Iraq and I do plan to look for more. I think most people who read war books have a preference for a particular war (WWII is mine -- I'll read just about anything about/set during WWII) or a certain time period, but you never know. Your dad might enjoy reading about something more modern for a change of pace. I'd skip this one for your dad, though. I think the point of this book can be found in the subtitle -- the author said he expected to find himself surrounded by people doing heroic things and instead he found power struggles, red tape and immorality (my wording).

  10. Yes, I did know that. :-) I've got my post all ready to announce that I'm continuing with the challenge. It'll probably go up next week or the week after.

    I'm actually the one who supplies him with most of his war books, although I'm sure he can tell me which ones are worth reading relating to Vietnam that I haven't read yet already. He reads a lot of books set around the World Wars and the Civil War too.

    I'm partial to WWII too. I'm reading The Boy in the Striped Pajamas at the moment. I've heard mixed reviews about it, but so far, I think it's good.

  11. Wendy,

    I've avoided The Boy in the Striped Pajamas because I heard it had a tearjerker ending, although that's a lousy reason. So did The Book Thief and it's one of my all-time favorites. I can't wait to see what you have to say about it.

    I'm glad you're joining the challenge! I'm still trying to avoid challenges (although I had fun with the RIP IV and the YA Dystopian) but I'm going ahead and setting aside books about Vietnam because I figure it's as good an excuse as any to dig them out and read them. :)

    So, if you're the supplier, you can just foist any old war on your dad and see what happens. LOL You're so lucky to have him. Next year will be the 20th anniversary of my father's death and I still think about him and miss him all the time -- especially when I'm reading anything about history, WWII or the Korean War because my father served the last few months of WWII and quite a while during the Korean War . . . and had a minor in history. He read a lot of history and suspense -- Robert Ludlum was one of his favorite authors.

  12. Hi Bookfool: Thanks for reviewing and sharing Mass Casualties. I would love it if you would consider joining my reading pledge to honor our Iraq War veterans: The 10th anniversary of the invasion approaches, and it's a great time to read their stories. Let me know if you have questions! And thanks for an awesome blog. ~ Gina


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