“ Genre: Fiction / Author: Bob Shepherd / Narrator: Cameron Stewart „
The Infidel by Bob Shepherd
The author, Bob Shepherd is an ex-SAS soldier and this is his first fiction novel. Not that you would realise by reading it. It is much better than any of Andy McNab's novels. McNab is also a former SAS soldier turned novelist. I have reviewed several of his books on here.
There are two main characters in this book, but I would say this is trying to make a comment in general about the NATO Afghan war, as seen by a range of characters who get caught up in it.
John Patterson and Dusty Miller are two ex-SAS soldiers, working as private contractors in Kabul, Afghanistan, training the Afghan anti-drug police.
John Patterson is the older of the two and the person leading the training program. He is the wise one, although in his old age, he is more emotional and has a short fuse. Dusty Miller is the one with a quick tongue but practical mind. He respects Patterson deeply and will do anything for him.
They are unhappy with the types of recruits they are expected to train. When they kick out some Taliban linked militants, it ends up causing them more problems than they could ever have imagined.
Due to the way events pan out, their actions are likely to damage the fragile Western and Afghan alliance. The British government decide to hand both of them over to the Afghan authorities to do what they like with them. Patterson and Miller have their own ideas though and set off for a remote Afghan province called Nuristan to seek their freedom . . .
The story then follows Patterson and Miller as we travel along with them through their journey but we also get glimpses into the lives of people they encounter along the way. The main ones being:
- Rudy - an idealistic young journalist when he first visits Afghanistan in 2006, but quickly becomes cynical and jaded. He realises that the public don't care about the real truth. They only want to read short stories about goodies and baddies and nothing that is in between. I thought he was quite a funny guy. He does anything to stay away from the frontline but he ends up being sent anyway. There isn't any other levity in the novel and I feel this helps to lift the tone of the novel.
- Lieutenant General Howard - I can't remember his exact rank. He is a PR man for the British military, pumping out propaganda saying they are winning the war, but he knows that is not the truth. He struggles with his conscience over what to do about it. He is one of the people that reluctantly decide to give up Patterson and Miller over to the Afghan authorities. He attempts to help Patterson by pulling some strings behind the scenes. He has worked with him whilst in the SAS and respects him greatly. (Most of the characters in this book respect Patterson due to his leadership and SAS experience). Howard always follows orders from his higher ups though.
- Hyder - is an Afghan translator who works for Patterson and Miller. He is the one that originally suggests they both go to Nuristan. You never really get to know what he is thinking but he has his reasons for asking them.
- Simon Hansen - is a fat slime ball. He is Patterson's and Millers superior. He tries to cover his ass and screw both of them over.
- We also get to meet a variety of Afghans along the way.
The start of the novel is set in the present (2008), when Dusty Miller visits Rudy and recounts what happened to Patterson and him, and then it switches back to 2006, as the main part of the novel unfolds. It is supposed to be told as a flashback, but it is told in the third person and you get to see things and people, that Miller would never have known about. At the end, the story switches back to 2008. I thought this worked well. You end up feeling like you've gone in a complete circle by the end of the novel as Miller finishes recounting his tale. The loose ends were tied up nicely. The third person style helped to inject more emotion and detail that a first person narrative would have lacked.
I was thinking the Afghan province mentioned in the book, Nuristan was a made up place. The name means land of light but I read a news article a few days after I had finished reading this, which detailed the terrorist and drug problem they were having. The author seems to have done a thorough job of researching all parts of Afghani life and culture.
The story by itself isn't great. What makes this great is the settings and the Characters. I wanted to find out about the different emotions and motivations of the various characters. You get to see why the different players act the way they do, as the novel progresses. It touches on the war but for the most part, it deals with emotions like loyalty, betrayal, greed, guilt and love. I enjoyed reading this and can recommend this wholeheartedly to anyone.
== Audio Narration ==
This audio book was from audible. It was read by a guy called Cameron Stewart. The running time for this book is 11hrs 13 mins.
I haven't heard this narrator previously. I found him easy to listen to. He was able to put the right amount of inflection into his voice for the various characters for me to be able to easily tell who was who. He switched effortlessly between the Scottish accents of the two primary characters giving each a distinctive burr. Patterson sounds the older, cooler headed one with a deep and slight Scottish burr, whereas Miller has a fast talking, slightly higher pitched and strong Scottish lilt to his voice.
== Summary and Recommendation ==
I have no hesitation in giving this 5 stars - Recommended for anyone. It gave me a lot to think about. It is well crafted and thought-provoking.