The Afghan Campaign (ISBN 38551641X) is a captivating and interesting story about two boys who leave their Macedonian homeland to join Alexander the Great in his conquests on the eastern front.
They start their journey on the eastern Mediterranean where they enlist in the army. They learn what is means to fight in formation and under strict discipline on their march in the wake of Alexander, who constantly keeps moving ahead of them further to the east.
The story really picks up when the boys reach Afghanistan and join the veteran troops chasing Bessus and later on trying to catch Spitamenes. They suffer dearly crossing the freezing Hindu Kush and empty scolding deserts. They witness and barely survive the massacre of their Macedonian unit that was supposed to parley with Spitamenes in Samarkand. They meet up with tribal Afghans, Bactrians and Sogdians, giving us an insight in their way of life, their love for horses and blood feuds. It might all have happened just yesterday. And since this is a historical novel, we don’t lose track of Alexander’s movements up front, his tactics and his policies.
The book climaxes with the wedding plans of one of the boys with an Afghan girl, set against the huge wedding party Alexander is organizing for himself and the daughter of the Bactrian warlord Oxyartes, Roxane.
Steven Pressfield clearly knows what he is talking about, the landscape, the heat and the cold, the starvation, the constant harassment of the enemy and the unquestionable support of the boy’s mates in combat. All in all, a very vivid recount of Alexander’s conquest seen through the eyes of simple boys who become men far too quickly, but who above all are soldiers entirely devoted to their King.