(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm (1998) took readers into the terrifying world of a fishing vessel overwhelmed by a natural disaster at sea; in Fire, Junger presents accounts of people in situations that most of us hope only to read about, never experience. Junger is a good storyteller, giving clear accounts of events, their history, and settings that make it possible to enter the dangerous worlds this journalist has, in most cases, explored first-hand.

"Fire" and companion piece, "Blowup: What Went Wrong At Storm King Mountain," recount the experiences of those who fight dangerous forest fires. "Fire" involves blazes in the mountains near Boise, Idaho. Junger demonstrates his ability to paint gripping pictures, showing readers the fire fighters as they prepare to go into the forest as well as following them as they battle the fire, offering along the way an interesting history of how America has fought forest fires since the 1800's. More harrowing, "Blowup" investigates the tragic death of fourteen fire fighters in the 1994 Glenwood Springs, Colorado, fire storm.

Of particular interest to American readers is "The Lion in Winter," which recounts Junger's experiences seeking out and interviewing Ahmad Shah Massoud, military leader of the Afghan Northern Alliance, who first lead Afghans against the Soviet Union and then against the Taliban after the Soviets were driven from Afghanistan. Massoud's brilliant leadership of the Afghan resistance seemed to be the one hope of ousting the oppressive Taliban regime. Junger met with Massoud a number of months before Massoud was assassinated, just days before terrorists drove planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Knowing now what would shortly transpire in the United States, it is startling to read Junger's description of Massoud, the Northern Alliance, the Taliban, Osama bin Laden, and Afghanistan under Taliban domination.

Other essays cover the plight of poor Caribbean whale hunters, the conflict in Kosovo, American's search for "real" adventure, fur trapping and adventuring in the American West in the nineteenth century, diamond miners and smugglers in Sierra Leone, and the harrowing capture and subsequent escape of a British man, one of several foreign trekkers held hostage by extremists in the Zanskar Mountains in Kashmir, India.