Disclaimer: This is not your typical book review. Sorry. But it is 100% true. It has been redacted for operational security. I hope you enjoy. (Editor’s Note: For some reason, when uploading, the redacted text shows as this symbol: ⊗)
⊗, Iraq 2005
The night I met Mitch Rapp I was reading The Third Option.
Three hours earlier, a Bradley fighting vehicle got hit outside the north gate. It was driving south on Route ⊗ when the IED exploded. Reports said it was a 500 pound bomb that insurgents had buried beneath the street. By the time we finally got there the only thing left were the tracks.
Now, inside my Humvee, it smells like diesel and gun oil — a welcome break from the sewer smell of ⊗. Above me, my gunner is getting the .50 cal ready. It takes two hands to pull the bolt back, and when he does, the gun truck shakes.
The sudden motion jerks my attention from the book. It’s dark now. When I look up, the light from my headlamp glints on the windshield. My heart is pounding in my chest, and I can still make out the smoke on the horizon. It looks like a ghost hovering over ⊗.
I can’t believe what I just read. IRON MAN IS DOWN.
The gun trucks are our homes. We fill them with fuel, ammo, explosives, toilet paper, dip, food and cases of energy drinks. The truck is my responsibility. While the rest of the team gets to walk around, the drivers have to stay put. Which is fine by me. Because The Third Option just got crazy.
I can’t believe what I just read. I seriously have to reread the paragraph just to make sure. There is no mistake. Mitch Rapp just got shot. It’s the worst possible time for my squad leader to come back. I hear his feet on the gravel, and my heart skips a beat. I start reading faster. Just give me five more minutes.
The back seat of the Humvee is empty. Tonight we are taking someone into ⊗. The reason we haven’t left yet is because the satellite communications are down and this someone needs to make contact with Task Force ⊗ before leaving the wire.
The back door comes open. Dutifully, I dog-ear the page. Before turning around, I slide it into the little hole below the radio mount. When I turn around Mitch Rapp is sitting in the back seat.
Vince Flynn was so much more than just the narrator of my wars. He was my escape and the reason I wanted to be an author. If you name a city in either Iraq or Afghanistan, I’ll name the Flynn book I was reading. We all have our favorites. Mine is The Third Option.
The Third Option was written pre 9-11. Released in October of 2000, it was ahead of its time. Back then the genre was different. There wasn’t as much meat. Authors were either picking over the bones of Cold War conflicts or writing about future wars with China or Russia. Vince changed all of that.
The Third Option was literary alchemy. I sometimes wonder if Vince Flynn had a crystal ball. His ability to be both author and prognosticator revolutionized the genre.
In The Third Option, Mitch Rapp is working for the CIA. He is sent to Germany, and instructed to take out a German industrialist who is helping Saddam Hussein. Simple operation. But his heart isn’t in it. Mitch is in love. Which means he is human.
Personally, this is why I couldn’t put the book down. War is a fickle teacher. And its first lesson: Never let your guard down. As I got deeper into the story I could feel the tension rising. I felt like I was watching a wreck about to happen.
Mitch was torn between love and duty. It is the soldier’s dilemma. The guy who got in my backseat was dressed in civilian clothes. He wore a plate carrier over a T shirt, and carried an H&K 416. He told me his name was Mike. I knew that wasn’t true. And while I didn’t know who he was, I knew exactly what he was.
He was a member of ⊗. An apex predator. For all intents and purposes he was Mitch Rapp. Even though he didn’t look like Vince’s character, I knew it was Mitch. He had the same eyes, and just like Mitch, this was his last mission. I would later learn that he was going to get married.
Like Mitch, Mike had a mission. I never found out what it was, but I know he pulled it off. Like me, he was a huge Vince Flynn fan, and he’d seen what I was reading.
“What do you think about Senator Clark?” He asked. “Real tool bag, huh?”Seriously, that’s what he said.
I tried to play it cool, but I’m pretty sure I screwed it up. “Yeah, but Mitch will handle it.”
Judge pre 9-11 and The Third Option gets a bum rap. But, in the middle of the War on Terror, it was spot on. The fact that I was sitting there talking to a ⊗ proved that. He was America’s Third Option, and I was a witness.
I can go on and on, but I’m not going to bore you. Long story short, we roll out. The drive is a nightmare. We pass the Bradley. All that are left are the tank treads. Right past that, we get hit. Small arms and another IED.
In the back Mike never says a word. We clear the ambush. All the while Mike is in the back taking a little nap. He was that cool. Thirty minutes later, he pulls out his GPS. He checks it against the map, and tells me to stop. My squad leader calls it up, and the convoy comes to a halt.
“Thanks for the ride bro,” he says.
Mike shuts the door, and walks off into the darkness. I’ll never know what his mission was. We worked for Task Force ⊗ for another month, and then it was time to go home. But every time I pick up The Third Option I think about Mike walking away.
In my mind I imagine him heading into ⊗ to meet up with Mitch Rapp.
Author: Vince Flynn
Pages: 458 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Pocket Books
Release Date: November 5, 2000
About the guest writer
Joshua Hood graduated from the University of Memphis before joining the military and spending five years in the 82nd Airborne Division, where he was team leader in the 3-504 Parachute Infantry Regiment. In 2005, he was sent to Iraq and conducted combat operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2005–2006. From 2007 to 2008 he served as a squad leader in the 1-508th Parachute Infantry Regiment and was deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. Hood was decorated for valor in Operation Furious Pursuit. He is currently a member of a full time SWAT team in Memphis, Tennessee, and has conducted countless stateside operations with the FBI, ATF, DEA, Secret Service, and US Marshals.