Blood on my Hands, a Surgeon at War by Craig Jurisevic


This is another book related to military medicine, but this one has a slight difference. Jurisevic was an Australian volunteer doctor who chose to help refugees who were fleeing from Kosovo to get away from a murderous campaign waged by Serbia under the government of Slobodan Milosevic.

What started out as a “simple” aim to serve in a surgical capacity for a volunteer organisation became complicated when Jurisevic exposed corruption at the main hospital in the town he was stationed, where severely wounded and sick refugees were being forced to pay for treatment or left to die.

He became a likely target for the organised crime group behind the extortion, so was encouraged by the Kosovan resistance to join them at their front line camp where they offered protection. He then found himself in situations far outside of his intended surgical role; seeing the need to train eager but woefully unprepared fighters from around the world in the essential basics of military competency.
Serving previously in a medical capacity under combat conditions in Gaza was helpful to him in ways he couldn’t have anticipated.

 

_________________

 

“They killed fourteen from my village. Three were children. They shot the children first so that their fathers and mothers could see. They shot the parents of these children with some others of my village”
( from a survivor of Sapuzane, Serbia, as told to Craig Jurisevic after fleeing across the border to Albania).

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Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz

Trigger MortisI read all of Ian Fleming’s James Bond books in my early teens and later tried some of those written by other authors after Fleming’s death. To me those post-Fleming books lacked authenticity, particularly the “novelisations” spun off from 1980s films. I especially never warmed to John Gardner’s ventures into the Bond world.

Last year I returned to Bond through Jeffrey Deaver’s Carte Blanche, and again, like the earlier attempts to follow in Fleming’s footsteps, I found it didn’t quite hit the mark, but things are different with Anthony Horowitz and Trigger Mortis.

Horowitz returns to the settings of the original Bond books, keeping Bond in the Fleming time period, and placing his story immediately after the events of Fleming’s Goldfinger.

The first part of Trigger Mortis adapts a previously unpublished Fleming short story in which Bond enters the extreme world of 1950s car racing (the equivalent of formula one with minimal safety restrictions). Suspicions raised during that introduction lead Bond into the heart of a Russian plot to destabilise the infant US space program.

I found the book’s tone and characterisation were more consistent with Fleming’s Bond than any of those by other writers who attempted Bond.

As with Horowitz’s TV series Foyle’s War, the writer adapts and weaves real historical events into the background of his story. Apart from aspects of America’s fledgling space programme, Horowitz also referenced events from the Korean War, where southern Korean refugees trying to flee to safety ahead of the advancing North Korean army, were massacred by US forces, fearful of North Koreans infiltrating their territory hidden among the escaping masses. While Horowitz offers little explanation for the atrocity, I found more detail in another book I’ve been reading recently: The Korean War by Cameron Forbes.

The Golden Legend by Nadeem Aslam

The Golden Legend is another exquisitely written novel by Nadeem Aslam.

An enthralling view into a world of politics, religion, persecution, corruption, love, loyalty, and extremism. A story of  violence and tenderness, love and fear, hope and despair, in a nation wracked by political and religious inconsistencies.

There are times throughout my reading year when I need to sit down with a “page-turner”, a book impossible to put down. A book I can finish in a couple of sittings.

This book is not one of those – it can’t be rushed. It needs to be savoured, not only to enjoy the richness of the writing, but to absorb the realities it explores. It takes us into a world contrasting significantly from the familiar western reality most of us take for granted, a place where political and religious allegiances, no matter loosely held, can make daily life precarious depending upon the opportunistic agendas of others .

The Silent invasion by James Bradley

Silent InvasionThe Silent Invasion is the first part of “The Change Trilogy”, set in the near future after the earth has been infected by extra-terrestrial spores that initiate changes in the metabolism of plant and animal life.

Infection leads to both physiological and personality changes, radically altering a victim’s identity and their relationship with others. Attempting to hold back the spread of the change, the infected are taken away from their families and society, by a government Quarantine department, never to be seen again by their families.

When sixteen year old Callie finds that Gracie, her young sister has started to change, she defies her family and community law, and attempts to escape to the Zone, a wild exclusion area in the north of Australia where “the change” has become established.

The story has some similarities to Jack Finney’s 1950s story Invasion of the Body Snatchers (probably better known through film adaptations) in which people on earth are replaced by emotionless duplicates after coming into contact with plant spores (or pods) originating from space. While Finney’s story portrays the unaffected as potential victims trying to escape those dehumanised by the “pods”, Bradley’s book turns things around and those affected by the change become the potential victims, trying to escape from a fearful “unchanged” society.

It was the page-turner I needed to read after tackling a few heavy going (though rewarding books) in the preceding two months. I read it in one day, barely putting it down. Fortunately, before I started I knew it was only the first part of a trilogy so was prepared for a mostly unresolved ending to set the reader up for the next instalment

Too Many to Jail, by Mark Bradley

At the beginning of February I finished reading Too Many to Jail by Mark Bradley, a book about the growth of Christianity in Iran. I thought I’d written a “review”,  however, I couldn’t find it and suspect my memory was of an email I sent to a friend at the time.

The book tells of growth in the underground church in Iran, and suggests that Iran’s history and culture has prepared the country for the gospel of Jesus Christ

In recent decades, the Islamic government of Ayatollah Khomeini , followed later by the Khomeini inspired Mahmoud Ahmadinejad presidency, caused a lot of disillusionment among Iranian Muslims who couldn’t reconcile the words and actions of “Allah’s representatives” with their own idea of what God was like.

Bradley writes of aspects of Iranian society that helped make Iranians look favourably upon Jesus and how some had been primed to respond to the gospel through dreams, visions and miracles before being led to someone who could share the truth with them.

After around 100 years of mission work leading up to Khomeini coming to power, traditional churches in Iran could only count around 500 believers – now motivated by home-grown house churches, the number of believers is thought to be in the 100s of thousands, a number causing problems to a government trying to crack down on Christian activity. As the title suggests,  the increasing numbers means there are far Too Many to Jail.