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Good and Evil in Afghanistan by Paul Soderberg

Good and Evil in Afghanistan

by Paul Soderberg

348 pages
Two very unusual war novels set in Afghanistan

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Category: Fiction
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About the Book
Good and Evil in Afghanistan is a matched pair of very unusual war novels.

In the first novel, “The Legend of the Alone Stranger” (which was inspired by a true story), an Afghan who had worked with a Texas oilman (who was an inveterate leg-puller and lifelong practical joker) comes to believe that he himself is the Lone Ranger. Wearing a white turban, a black mask, and sky-blue robes, riding a snow-white camel (an albino) named Silbar, shooting only silvery ball bearings from his 200-year-old flintlock, and followed by his donkey-riding faithful companion Tonton, who carries a tomahawk and wears an eagle feather in his turban, the Alone Stranger charges off “to bring to justice” the entire Soviet Occupation army in 1980.

From “The Red Badge of Courage” to “All Quiet on the Western Front” to “Catch-22” and “From Here to Eternity,” virtually all war novels have always been about the heroism and melodrama of the warriors, who typically are young or middle-aged men. Bravery, valor, aggression, daring, fury, decisive victories in which the other side’s young men are slaughtered: these are the guts of most war novels, which mention only casually, if at all, what these days is euphemistically called “collateral damage.” In plain English, that term means the slaughter of children, women, and old people. Where are the war novels that focus on them?

There are precious few. Ted Dekker’s recent thriller, “BoneMan’s Daughters” (2009) is one. Two more are the brace, or matched pair, of novels in “Good and Evil in Afghanistan,” Paul Soderberg’s latest book of fiction. Both were written out of his personal conviction that warfare worldwide would not be so prevalent if people focused more on war’s inevitable slaughter of children, women and old people, and less on the warriors.

The second novel of the pair, “The March of the Frozen Martyrs,” is set in present-day Afghanistan, during America’s longest-ever war. The villains are al Qaeda fighters, a Taliban eunuch called the “Torture Master,” Iraqi weapons-makers, and abusive adults. The story’s heroes and sheroes are a children’s dentist from California, an army deserter from New York, a nanny from India, a blind old Afghan man, a Russian leper, a beautiful twenty-something Pakistani woman, an 11-year-old Pakistani boy who runs away from home to be a child soldier, and an Afghan girl who, though only 10, has already killed two pro-American Afghan Army soldiers with a knife.

On the beach at Malibu, Ben Prester, the pediatric oral surgeon, convinces Major John Shasta, who went AWOL from his post in Kandahar, to join him in sneaking back into Afghanistan to rescue a dozen or so war orphans. One of them makes it back across the border to safety in Pakistan, leading more than 600 boys and girls.



About the Author
Paul Soderberg grew up in Kabul, where his father in 1947 was the founding director of the Afghan Institute of Technology. After college, Paul returned for 2 years of famine-relief work that took him all over Afghanistan a few years before the coup that led to the 1979 Soviet invasion.



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