War is Boring: The Horrible Banality of Reporting on Atrocity

This is a fascinating book about a very specific addiction. For David Axe was addicted not to drugs, alcohol, gambling, or sex: David Axe was addicted to war.

Which, since Axe was a freelance wartime correspondent, meant that he could easily indulge in his addiction. Something about the boredom of aimlessly waiting around interspersed with brief but terrifying moments of terror and the fear of death was endlessly fascinating to him, and he could stand only a few days stateside without sinking into a miserable boredom. As Axe grew more experienced going into war zones, he became increasingly desensitized to the death and destruction around him, and increasingly obsessed with putting himself in increasingly dangerous warzones.

Axe is very blunt about his opinions: you can feel how pointless he finds most of the wars he reports on, and the ambiguous feeling he gets considering that he might be helping these wars continue, particularly after he stops being a freelancer and starts working for a military trade magazine (in other words, a magazine for arms manufacturers). Throughout the story, we get glimpses of the people Axe encounters in his travels: stringers who beg him to get them out of the country, soldiers who try to project competence and generally fail, and ordinary civilians being shredded by the chaos around them. It helps to put a human face on the atrocities happening in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, East Timor, and Somalia.

All in all, this was a great short book. Axe does a good job capturing the experience of being a war junkie, and Matt Bors' art captures the story in a realistic style that works well for the gritty reality of experiencing war zones. Definitely check it out if you find it.

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