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So I woke up one morning and saw an email from a rather interesting-sounding chap named Samuel Finlay sitting in my mailbox, expressing appreciation for my writing and asking if I might be interested in reviewing a book that he had written. I was, of course, only too happy to oblige; I am greatly honoured that men like Sam read my work and enjoy it, and it is an honour and a pleasure to return the favour when I can. Sam sent me a free copy of his book via Amazon's gift program and I got on with reading it.
First things first: this book is written by a man with military experience, and it is apparently at least semi-autobiographical in nature. This means that the story it tells feels intensely personal, and the characters and events described therein really do come to life in a way that those who have not served in the military (like, say, me) would be extremely hard-pressed to duplicate.
Breakfast with the Dirt Cult concerns the (mis)adventures of one Private Tom Walton, a young man- more like a boy, really, who grows up damn fast- from rural Oklahoma deployed into live-fire zones in some of the ugliest places that the American military can send people. The book opens with Tom spending some downtime in a strip club in Toronto after a stint as part of the peacekeeping force in Bosnia. It is there that he meets Amy, and his whole life changes completely, irrevocably, from that moment onward.
Some of us are lucky enough to meet one woman in our entire lives who are utterly intoxicating. Every moment spent in their presence is magical, lasting an eternity and yet going by in an instant. These women fulfill us on every possible level- physically, intellectually, and spiritually. They seem as ephemeral as mirages in the desert, and the time spent with them seems to have an almost dreamlike quality to it. Amy, a book-loving stripper of jaw-dropping good looks, is that woman for Tom. The first chapter of this book actually seems completely surreal because Finlay spends quite a lot of time and effort in making Amy seem almost too good to be true. It's a good thing that he does an excellent job, because otherwise it would be impossible to believe that a horny young soldier on leave in Canada, which has rather more liberal attitudes about sex and drugs than America does, would sit across from a stunningly beautiful and completely naked stripper and talk to her about books and travelling. It sounds ridiculous when I write it, but trust me on this, Finlay manages to pull it off.
From there, we see Tom's journey through his deployment to Afghanistan, with his promise to Amy to come back to her and engage in a passionate affair binding them to each other. We see the war through his eyes, and we learn what it is like to be a grunt on the ground, fighting "Haji", as the troops call the enemy. We begin to understand and appreciate just how difficult it is to win a war against an enemy that doesn't understand indoor plumbing and has barely moved beyond the technology of the wheel, and yet possesses an otherworldly patience and a deep, cold, calculating nature that American troops simply cannot match. We experience the gut-wrenching fear of combat, the boredom of long night watches, the fatigue of long marches in the stupefying heat, the dangers of freezing to death in the harsh Afghani winter, and the ugly nature of an in-your-face war that is nothing like the sanitised, made-for-television clips that we get shown via America's lying MSM.
The life of a soldier, as described in this book, is given to you in raw, unvarnished detail. This means that there is an awful lot of swearing and talk about graphic sex. There is a lot of discussion about what spouses and girlfriends will do when their men are far away, fighting in distant lands. There are lots of blokey pranks, there are descriptions of bodily functions that will turn your stomach, there are stories of surgical procedures that should be sombre and sad and yet will make you damn near fall off your seat laughing because of the sheer absurdity of some of the things that go on in the military. I warn you now, if you read this book and you are of a sensitive nature, you WILL be offended by what you read. If you're like me, however, and you're not particularly bothered by that sort of thing as long as the story is interesting, then you're probably going to enjoy this book.
There are two problems that I have with this book, though, and they are serious ones. First, although this book is quite easy to read, it is damn near impossible to construct a coherent timeline. When reading it, I had no sense whatsoever of the passage of time. Events simply seemed to meld into one another, so that one moment, Tom is marching on a dirt road with his platoon to engage some insurgents, and then on the very next page he's riding in a Chinook back to base while mulling over the philosophy of our present society. This lack of a coherent story is extremely jarring, and it makes for a very uneven read. This is where it becomes clear that this is probably Finlay's first attempt at writing fiction. Other books of this type- I'm thinking Andy McNab's Bravo Two Zero, for instance- are far more coherent and far more readable precisely because they stick to a timeline that makes some sort of sense. There is some sense of the passage of time that creates a flow and a rhythm that the reader can follow. In this book, that is almost completely absent, and that is its great flaw.
The second problem has to do with the book's extensive ruminating upon the decline of American society. Now I want to make it perfectly clear that when Tom goes on one of his mental woolgathering trips regarding feminism, political correctness, the stupidity of the chattering classes, the insidious rot eating away at American society, the questions of the nature of war that every soldier inevitably asks himself, and so on, I find myself in complete agreement with what Tom- which is to say, Finlay- has to say. There is nothing in his tirades about the stupidity and absurdity of feminism or the uselessness of women in the military for me to object to, at all. Indeed, in his email, Sam indicated that one of the things that came out of his experiences was his belief that America has been led down completely the wrong path, for decades now, by elites who couldn't give a toss about right or wrong and only care about more wealth, more power, and more control, and to hell with the principles of the Republic that they nominally swore to defend in the process. Again, NOTHING about this is news to me, and I agree completely with this point of view- I've been saying very similar things on this blog for months now.
That said, I shouldn't have to go through a battle scene and then listen to a lot of philosophising on the ride back to base about it. Leave that sort of thing to Russian writers like Dostoevsky, there's a reason why Crime and Punishment is simultaneously one of the greatest and one of the most annoying books ever written. I think Matt Forney put it best when reviewing one of Frost's books, in which Frost was writing a book that was literally the Red Pill Manual rewritten in fictional form: "show me, don't tell me". It's all too easy to lecture someone on how stupid and evil socialism is; it's far too easy to go on a longwinded ramble about what a terrible idea it is to have female soldiers in the field; and it's certainly not difficult to paint politicians as hypocrites and liars out to serve only their own interests. I don't need to be told these things- I want to be shown them. And that is where this book falls very far short of its admittedly rather ambitious goals.
Despite these flaws, I do like this book, quite a lot. There is nothing sappy or maudlin about it. The truth of Tom Walton's existence is laid bare in the most brutal possible terms. He is shot, severely wounded, and spends considerable time in convalescence, and finally does get around to consummating his hitherto strictly mental and platonic relationship with the beautiful and bewitching Amy. The ending, though, will surprise and probably even shock you. I'm not going to give it away other than to say that it's absolutely not what you expected. Tom Walton's views dovetail well with my own, even though his background is completely different from mine, and that reinforces one of the most remarkable things about the Manosphere and the authors within it: though we are diverse and different in so many ways, we are united in one critical aspect- we are servants and seekers of primordial and eternal Truth. And I have nothing but respect and admiration for an author like Samuel Finlay who seeks to tell his own story of the search for that Truth.
If this is indeed Sam Finlay's first book, then I want to congratulate him on writing a genuinely interesting piece of work, and I'd also like him to take note of the points made above. This book could have gone from being a merely good semi-autobiographical soldier's tale to a genuinely outstanding memoir of the hell of war with just a bit more careful editing and some semblance of a plot or timeline to it. I do hope to read more of his writing in the future, as I think that men like him have been severely shortchanged by their society and deserve to have far more of a voice in it than they do at present. One interesting thing about this book is that it certainly reinforced my longstanding conviction that the sacred covenant between the military and the society that it serves has been broken; the troops that are wounded and killed are increasingly fighting for a society that does not want to acknowledge their existence, and sooner or later, many of them are going to ask themselves why they are fighting at all, just like Tom does in this book.
Didact's Verdict: 3/5, a fine story which asks some very deep and very important questions, let down by poor editing and an extremely haphazard plotline. Still definitely worth reading, though.
Buy Breakfast with the Dirt Cult here.