The Valley

John Renehan

Book - 2015

"A former Army Captain's gripping portrait of a fighting division holding a remote outpost in Afghanistan reminiscent of Apocalypse Now, The Yellow Birds, and Matterhorn There were many valleys in the mountains of Afghanistan, and most were hard places where people died hard deaths. But there was only one Valley. Black didn't even know its proper name. But he knew about the Valley. It was the farthest, and the hardest, and the worst. It lay deeper and higher in the mountains than... any other place Americans had ventured. You had to travel through a network of interlinked valleys, past all the other remote American outposts, just to get to its mouth. Stories circulated periodically, tales of land claimed and fought for, or lost and overrun, new attempts made or turned back, outposts abandoned and reclaimed. They were impossible to verify. Everything about the Valley was myth and rumor. The strung-out platoon Black finds after traveling deep into the heart of the Valley, and the illumination of the dark secrets accumulated during month after month fighting and dying in defense of an indefensible piece of land, provide a shattering portrait of men at war"--

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Subjects
Genres
War stories
Published
New York, New York : Dutton [2015]
Language
English
Physical Description
433 pages ; 24 cm
ISBN
9780525954866
0525954864
Main Author
John Renehan (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Renehan borrows the plotline from Heart of Darkness, in which a naive young man is dispatched to throw light upon unspeakable horror. Lieutenant Black is shuffling papers on FOB Omaha, in Afghanistan, when he's assigned to investigate an incident at a firebase near the Pakistan border. Warning shots were fired in the nearby village, but no harm was done, and the investigation should be routine. But as Black interviews enlisted men (the commander, another lieutenant, is mysteriously absent), the plot sprawls. After Black commits what seems to be a boneheaded error with the village chief, the firebase is fiercely attacked. Amid the chaos, Black at last deduces the horror, though he's wounded in the process, and the firebase is almost overrun. The long firefight is exciting, but Renehan works so hard at suspense that it almost parodies itself, and he leaves behind so many red herrings he has to spend 20 pages explaining what happened. Still, a novel about the war in Afghanistan is welcome indeed, and Renehan, who served as an artillery officer in Iraq, certainly knows what he's talking about. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Never mind the reporting, the fiction coming out of war in the Middle East has been amazing; think Phil Klay's Redeployment and Michael Pitre's Five and Twenty-Fives. Renehan, a former U.S. Army Third Infantry Division captain, portrays a lieutenant in Afghanistan sent to investigate misconduct within a military unit in the Valley—a remote, almost mythic area reached by an endless chain of rifts and outposts. A Heart of Darkness feel. [Page 60]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

In this gripping and memorable first novel, a junior officer is asked to look into misconduct in the most remote and dangerous of Afghan outposts. Lieutenant Black, psychically wounded by an ambush on an earlier mission, goes to beleaguered Combat Outpost Vega expecting to investigate an incident of a soldier firing warning shots among civilians. But he soon finds little at the base—or in Afghanistan—is as it seems. A social faux pas involving the local village chief opens a door on events far darker and more sinister than a few warning shots—events that the platoon's soldiers are being pressured to cover up. And it will be up to Black to unravel the twisted threads, including everything from soldiers with ties to the local drug trade to the killing of Afghani children, to discover who is responsible. VERDICT Renehan, who served in the army's Third Infantry Division as a field artillery officer in Iraq, combines elements of mystery and psychological suspense with an almost sociological delineation of the customs of military life to produce a taut and harrowing tale of soldiers pushed to the brink and beyond by fear, exhaustion, and a powerful sense of the futility of their mission. The parallels to Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now are unmistakable. [See Prepub Alert, 9/15/14.]—Lawrence Rungren, Andover, MA [Page 74]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

A junior officer referred to as Lieutenant Black, the hero of Renehan's uneven first novel, looks into suspicious goings-on at a remote American military outpost high in the mountains of Afghanistan. Initially, Black uncovers the harmless shooting of a goat, but otherwise makes little progress in his investigation. Yet with each passing day, the awkward silences and unfinished sentences of those he's interviewing convince Black that something far more worrisome than the shooting of native livestock is at stake. Renehan draws on his experiences as a former field artillery officer in Iraq to provide clear insight into the minds of soldiers operating under extreme pressure. After a captivating first half of fresh prose and a driving narrative, however, the story loses its way and turns predictable and introspective. The rot that has been infesting the outpost fails to surprise, and Black's interior thought process is less interesting than the actions he has been ordered to carry out. Agent: Robert Guinsler at Sterling Lord Literistic. (Mar.) [Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"A former Army Captain's gripping portrait of a fighting division holding a remote outpost in Afghanistan reminiscent of Apocalypse Now, The Yellow Birds, and Matterhorn There were many valleys in the mountains of Afghanistan, and most were hard places where people died hard deaths. But there was only one Valley. Black didn't even know its proper name. But he knew about the Valley. It was the farthest, and the hardest, and the worst. It lay deeper and higher in the mountains than any other place Americans had ventured. You had to travel through a network of interlinked valleys, past all the other remote American outposts, just to get to its mouth. Stories circulated periodically, tales of land claimed and fought for, or lost and overrun, new attempts made or turned back, outposts abandoned and reclaimed. They were impossible to verify. Everything about the Valley was myth and rumor. The strung-out platoon Black finds after traveling deep into the heart of the Valley, and the illumination of the dark secrets accumulated during month after month fighting and dying in defense of an indefensible piece of land, provide a shattering portrait of men at war"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Summoned to a formidable region in Afghanistan to help defend one of the country's most dangerous outposts, a young Army lieutenant confronts the realities of a traumatized platoon overwhelmed by regional violence and dark secrets.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Summoned to a formidable region in Afghanistan to help defend one of the country's most dangerous outposts, a young Army lieutenant confronts the realities of a traumatized platoon overwhelmed by regional violence and dark secrets. A first novel.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

You’re going up the Valley.”Black didn’t know its name, but he knew it lay deeper and higher than any other place Americans had ventured. You had to travel through a network of interlinked valleys, past all the other remote American outposts, just to get to its mouth. Everything about the place was myth and rumor, but one fact was clear: There were many valleys in the mountains of Afghanistan, and most were hard places where people died hard deaths. But there was only one Valley. It was the farthest, and the hardest, and the worst.When Black, a deskbound admin officer, is sent up the Valley to investigate a warning shot fired by a near-forgotten platoon, he can only see it as the final bureaucratic insult in a short and unhappy Army career. What he doesn’t know is that his investigation puts at risk the centuries-old arrangements that keep this violent land in fragile balance, and will launch a shattering personal odyssey of obsession and discovery as Black reckons with the platoon’s dark secrets, accumulated over endless hours fighting and dying in defense of an indefensible piece of land.The Valley is a riveting tour de force that changes our understanding of the men who fight our wars and announces John Renehan as one of the great American storytellers of our time.

Review by Publisher Summary 5

“You’re going up the Valley.”Black didn’t know its name, but he knew it lay deeper and higher than any other place Americans had ventured. You had to travel through a network of interlinked valleys, past all the other remote American outposts, just to get to its mouth. Everything about the place was myth and rumor, but one fact was clear: There were many valleys in the mountains of Afghanistan, and most were hard places where people died hard deaths. But there was only one Valley. It was the farthest, and the hardest, and the worst.When Black, a deskbound admin officer, is sent up the Valley to investigate a warning shot fired by a near-forgotten platoon, he can only see it as the final bureaucratic insult in a short and unhappy Army career. What he doesn’t know is that his investigation puts at risk the centuries-old arrangements that keep this violent land in fragile balance, and will launch a shattering personal odyssey of obsession and discovery as Black reckons with the platoon’s dark secrets, accumulated over endless hours fighting and dying in defense of an indefensible piece of land.The Valley is a riveting tour de force that changes our understanding of the men who fight our wars and announces John Renehan as one of the great American storytellers of our time.