I read Joker One and The Unforgiving Minute back-to-back (thanks, Amazon recommendations!) I expected similar books since they are first-person tales from Iraq and Afghanistan. While true, I found them to be of very different quality. While readable, I found that Unforgiving Minute lacked the power and voice of Joker One.

Fair or not, I can’t help but compare the two.  The Unforgiving Minute is the story of Craig Mullaney’s life as a military man. Unlike Joker One which tracks the author’s experience as a platoon commander, Minute tracks Mullaney’s life. Much of the story surrounds his experience at West Point, training, his tour in Afghanistan, his experience as a Rhodes Scholar, falling in love, and his relationship with his family. If you’re looking for a glimpse of life at West Point and into military culture, this is the book for you.

While Minute is almost an autobiography, and Joker One is more of a military account, I felt like Joker One was more personal. I think this is due to how honest Campbell is in his detailed accounts of his failures, insecurities, and the details of war. Despite glossing over the personal details of his personal life, I felt a vivid portrait of the man and a feeling that I somehow knew him. Whereas while Mullaney’s book dives deeply into his personal relationships, it carries an almost detached tone. It was strange to read such personal details such as his relationship with his father or his wife and still feel so distant. I can’t deconstruct the elements that makes Joker profoundly personal and Minute feel detached, but I’m pretty sure if I could, they would be instructive. Any literary experts who can do this, please reach out and help!

Minute is still a good book. But, for me, lacked the power of Joker.

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