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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
Land of the Blind by Andy Owen is a first-person fictional memoir that follows its narrator, whom I simply came to call “The Officer,” in the war-torn landscape of Afghanistan. Through covert operations and counterinsurgency measures, we start to see the chain reaction of consequences, both intended and not. These deeply impact Afghan contacts and comrades alike, particularly with a loss that triggers a quest for revenge and an attempt to capture a Taliban bomb maker in Operation Minimize. The Officer takes us through the difficulties of military life, the hidden resilience of Afghan women, and the consequences of foreign intervention. A tragic incident involving Jim's death leads to a collaboration with Khalid and a risky mission. The domino-effect dynamics of Afghanistan, including ISI's involvement and Khalid's debt settlement with the Taliban, lean toward moral dilemmas, and in the final days, as The Officer begins to bid farewell, the potential dangers of the journey home go further than the physical.
Andy Owen takes readers beyond the traditional metrics of war, exploring the often-overlooked impact on personal connections and relationships in Land of the Blind. We can see the importance of maintaining connections and the hope of reconnection as vital aspects of the human experience in its aftermath, as well as the importance of trying to reconcile loss, especially when the reason behind it becomes convoluted. The symbolism in Owen's prose is often beautiful, like the description of a pistol round's outline burned into the skin, a permanent scar representing the lasting impact of combat experiences. Owen's hyper-realistic portrayal of the military operations center stood out to me the most. The detailed description of the Task Force Helmand HQ feels authentic, with his meticulous understanding of the organizational structure and departments within an MOC. Overall, this is a well-written, emotive, and thought-provoking novel. Very highly recommended.