Thoughts on THE PROFESSION by Steven Pressfield
I was lucky enough to receive an advance reading copy of Steven Pressfield’s next novel, THE PROFESSION. I couldn’t wait to get it. Not only am I a huge fan of Mr. Pressfield”s fiction and non-fiction (if you haven’t read THE WAR OF ART, do it today), I am working on a novel about private military contractors and THE PROFESSION focuses on that industry and its players in the year 2032.
This probably won’t make sense, but Mr. Pressfield somehow managed to write a novel set in the future that works as research for my current-day novel. That wouldn’t be surprising with his historical fiction, which is recommended and assigned throughout universities and military academies, but THE PROFESSION isn’t a passionate retelling of events that took place decades or centuries ago. It’s pure fiction. The detail he put into the characters, lingo, equipment, and settings is miles deep, consistent with his historical fiction, but it’s in the future.
And yet …
And yet the mercenaries in THE PROFESSION would be right at home on the battlefield at Thermopylae, marching with Alexander, or scouring the desert for Rommel. These are men who live by a code and want a great leader to fight for. A great cause would be nice as well, but obscene piles of money can make any cause look pretty decent.
I found it harder to respect the warriors from THE PROFESSION the way I did those from GATES OF FIRE, KILLING ROMMEL, et. al., but that is my fault–and possibly Mr. Pressfield’s intention.
If he meant for current events to inform my opinion of the characters, politics, and subject matter, thereby creating layers of internal/external conflict for the protagonist as well as whether I wanted him to succeed, well done sir. There is no black and white in THE PROFESSION, and it is impossible to anticipate what the characters will do for money, honor, and each other. It kept me off balance and made me think during and between readings. I highly recommend it.
My dad keeps asking about THE PROFESSION, but I lie and tell him I’m not done with it yet. He’s getting a copy of it for Father’s Day, but not my advance copy. That gets a place of honor on my fiction shelf, and I’m saving a slot in the non-fiction section. Once we hit 2033, I might have to re-shelve it.