My rating: 4 out of 5
When I was watching Black Hawk Down (the movie) several years ago, I hadn’t been aware there is a book as well. By the time I started reading the book, I forgot everything about the movie except the outline and the feeling of constant confusion.
So first, the good parts: Black Hawk Down is a great piece of storytelling that can make you feel in the middle of it all. All the bullets flying, tremendous amount of confusion and sensory overload. Feeling of randomness of it all, of courage showing through fear. It is not an indifferent 3rd party telling you someone got shot in the head with his brains splattering all around the humvee. It’s told by his friends while riding with him, joking one minute and trying to survive angry frenzy of bullet hailstorm few seconds later. Black Hawk Down also tries to set a larger geo-political scene to explain some of the decisions. There is nothing I’d change about these parts…
Which cannot be said about the few times that Mark Bowden tries to show the Somalian side of the conflict. Those parts are usually quite short with very little backstory. I understand it was not easy to gather information from the other side when he spent only about a week in Somalia. There are possibly good reasons for this but Mark Bowden doesn’t even try to excuse Black Hawk Down being a bit too one-sided. Maybe I can try to make this excuse on his behalf: estimated 500 Somalians were killed in those few hours of conflict (with estimated 500 more wounded). People who would have a story to tell were most likely killed.
There were 18 total casualties on US/UN side with 85 more wounded. Let those numbers sink in (compared to Somalian side).
All that said, I enjoyed Black Hawk Down as an example of “whatever can go wrong will go wrong” and how to handle unexpected developments.