REVIEW: War is Boring – Bored Stiff, Scared to Death in the World’s Worst War Zones (2010)

A Graphic Novel by David Axe and Matt Bors

I found out about David Axe due to him being a contributor to The ‘Stan, one of the many books put out by Dead Reckoning. While that book focused on the US war in Afghanistan, this is a career spanning look at the authors work as a “war correspondent”, a term he absolutely hates to this day. It’s a sobering look at a young man that threw himself deep into some of the most heinous war zones seemingly to seek thrills initially, almost developing a self destructive death wish. Having troubles fitting back into society after see so many terrible things, he’s always on a plane heading somewhere terrible. As the title states, “…as boring as war can be…peace is much worse.”.

“As a correspondent for The Washington Times, C-SPAN and BBC Radio, Axe flew from conflict to conflict, reveling in death, danger, and destruction abroad while, back in D.C., his apartment gathered dust, his plants died, and his relationships withered. War reporting was physically, emotionally, and financially draining-and disillusioning. Loosely based on the web comic of the same name, with extensive new material, War Is Boring takes us to Lebanon and Somalia; to arms bazaars across the United States; to Detroit, as David tries to reconnect with his family-and to Chad, as David attempts to bring attention to the Darfur genocide.”

This book is pretty good, but at times felt as if it could have gone further. by that, what I mean is that I feel like the narrative is somewhat anemic in the way that describes the various conflict zones Axe is thrown into. We see him talking to some guys in Chad taking him to the site of a possible genocide in Darfur, they ask “why are you here?” then follow Axe as he recounts the last decade or so. Each chapter is largely one of these conflicts, but we never really get a good grasp of what is happening in the world other than the occasional moments when a villager mentions something in passing. I feel like this was a big missed opportunity, and fleshing this out more, even with some segments of prose, would have made this feel more complete.

The real story here is Axe’s transition from being a self-destructive and self-absorbed thrill seeker to a legitimate journalist trying to bring light to a genocide and actually help people. You can tell he suffers from some form of PTSD despite not being directly involves in battles, and has a callous view towards the citizens of the places he goes. This changes slowly but surely, which is good because otherwise the man seemed like kind of an ass at times.

War is Boring – Bored Stiff, Scared to Death in the World’s Worst War Zones by David Axe and Matt Bors is written in a self-deprecating style that is equal parts humorous and dark, and would be a great read for somebody that has served in the military. You get to see a side of war you never really get to see simply because “behind the scenes” takes from journalists are rarely a thing. Overall, I enjoyed this book despite its flaws, and would like to read more from this author if he ever decides to do a full-on memoir at some point. I will likely look into more of his graphic novels, seeing that he has one about Joseph Kony in print as well.

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