My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A good compilation of Mr. Yon’s blog posts plus some original material from the relevant period of his war reporting in Iraq. The story is worthy, but the book is fatally flawed by a lack of professional editing. Mr. Yon’s war reporting deserves 10 stars, but the book, as a book, does not.
Michael Yon is unsurpassed in current-generation, in person, ground-truth war reporting. His honest perspectives on the day-to-day lives of the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen (and women) are comparable only to the previous generations’ Ernie Pyle and Joe Galloway.
Mr. Yon has done his best to leverage the modern day’s blog and social media channels to get his message out, and is perhaps the world’s best known example of an independent, consumer supported, front line reporter. He is independent, works for no news agency, and is entirely economically supported via donations and book sales.
If you haven’t read his blog or his Facebook stream, they are worth the time. They are probably the only unfiltered information you will ever see about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. By unfiltered I do not mean entirely objective. Mr. Yon has a point of view and he is very honest about reflecting that point of view in his messages. That honesty is what makes his reporting real, believable and, ultimately, valuable.
He has not been immune to being used by the media, the military, the politicians and others seeking to leverage gain. Even so, the net-net of what you gain from his raw dispatches from the field more than offset the spin-machine manifestations of his material.
* Blog: http://www.michaelyon-online.com/
(You will struggle to find a way to read his blog posts/reports from beginning to end. The blog site is not reflective of current-era content management system (CMS) capability so it’s nearly impossible to read things in a chronological order. Again, Mr. Yon’s work deserves better.)
All of this adds up to an extraordinary person who has made amazing sacrifices to bring back stories and photos from wars and trouble spots all over the world, but especially Iraq and Afghanistan.
We are all in his debt for his efforts.
Having said all of that, Mr. Yon desperately needs a professional editor. His books are primarily compilations of his blog posts and are mostly direct copy and paste efforts. Consequently, they suffer from misspellings, grammar errors, reptition/duplication and other things you expect in a blog post pounded out while under fire at the front lines but don’t expect to find in a professional level book. Mr. Yon’s writing and photography deserve better.
As a writer, Mr. Yon shows continuing development since his early days, and has found his voice.
As a photographer, Mr. Yon demonstrates the power and capability of modern camera equipment. By that I mean that he has been able to bring back good, solid imagery, even from his initial efforts. He continues to improve as a shooter and his hard work and dedication in learning this new medium are obvious in the improvement he has shown over the years.
* As a war reporter: Among the best – ever – from any era.
* As a writer: Good, with a mature and capable voice. Very much needs a professional editor for his books.
* As a photographer: Still a work in progress. The camera is not yet a fully formed tool in Mr. Yon’s hands, a tool that he can use as a medium of expression as he can his writing. He’s been moving through the stages of learning what all the controls are for, but even then his camera gear has been capable of bringing back amazing imagery. He’s at the point where he can capture a shot. As a shooter, that is different from creating a photograph as a means of expression. I believe he will continue to evolve and grow and will eventually develop an eye as a shooter, as he has developed a voice as a writer. Endless kudos to Mr. Yon for taking the gear into battle and capturing the shots.
Again, we are all in his debt for his efforts.
Regardless of how you feel about any of the conflicts, countries, regions or religions Mr. Yon covers, you will be hard pressed to find a more open and direct channel into what is actually happening there. Other information sources bring you the remains of multiple layers of filter, skew and spin. Mr. Yon brings you the ground truth.