This photo is of the advance reader copy I had – the finished copy cover version is below!
Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime by Ben Blum
(Doubleday Books – September 12, 2017)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Incredibly analytical and family-oriented, this 400-page account of a 90 second crime reads as a detailed account of military training combined with a psychology textbook and memoir.
Thank you to Doubleday Books for providing me with an advance copy of this title for review purposes.
Book Description (from Goodreads)
Alex Blum was a good kid with one unshakeable goal in life: Become a U.S. Army Ranger. On the day of his leave before deployment to Iraq, Alex got into his car with two fellow soldiers and two strangers, drove to a local bank in Tacoma, and committed armed robbery.
The question that haunted the entire Blum family was: Why?Why would he ruin his life in such a spectacularly foolish way?
At first, Alex insisted he thought the robbery was just another exercise in the famously daunting Ranger program. His attorney presented a case based on the theory that the Ranger indoctrination mirrored that of a cult.
In the midst of his own personal crisis, and in the hopes of helping both Alex and his splintering family cope, Ben Blum, Alex’s first cousin, delved into these mysteries, growing closer to Alex in the process. As he probed further, Ben began to question not only Alex, but the influence of his superior, Luke Elliot Sommer, the man who planned the robbery. A charismatic combat veteran, Sommer’s manipulative tendencies combined with a magnetic personality lured Ben into a relationship that put his loyalties to the test.
RANGER GAMES did the impossible – it held me in suspense about a crime I absolutely already knew the outcome of, and kept me invested in the intricate account of a family I have never met and will never meet. Due to a personal/family experience, I have an incredibly strong interest in accounts of military training and experiences, and this story of a teen boy 100% dedicated to joining the Army Rangers from a young age really hit home for me.
Ben Blum wrote this book in such a way that readers will learn a great deal about psychology and the military, but in a narrative format that adds heart and purpose. While Alex Blum is the focus of this book, he is really the backdrop for a look into the Army Rangers that we don’t often read about, but without judgement or condemnation – a look that will definitely lead me to reading more on this topic, as well as the topic of brainwashing and personality-altering trainings and organizations. Ultimately, though, this is a story of redemption and the power of family in a time of moral breakdown.
RANGER GAMES is lengthy and so very detailed (at times repetitive), but I very highly recommend it for nonfiction readers who are interested in military and psychology. I won’t stop thinking about it for a long time (especially the way the story ended up), and my husband was trying to steal it from me the entire time I was reading! I can’t wait to hear what he thinks of it.