Book Review: The Guns of Navarone

Book Review: The Guns of Navarone by Alistair MacLean


There are more than a thousand British soldiers trapped on a small island off the Turkish coast, and the Germans are sending a huge force to smash them.  The British Navy wants to pull them off, but the only route that can be taken goes right past–the guns of Navarone.  Unfortunately neither sea nor air attacks will work on the Navarone fortress due to its unique position, and a mass amphibious assault would take too long.  But a small team of specialists might be able to scale the unclimbable cliffs, get past the elite Alpenkorps troops, infiltrate the impenetrable fortress and blow up the invincible guns.  Maybe.

Perhaps the best known of action writer Alistair MacLean’s books (he also did Where Eagles Dare and Ice Station Zebra), it was made into an Oscar-winning (and notoriously loud) movie in 1961.  I was made to feel quite old when the barista at the local coffee shop had never heard of either book or movie.

This is a very manly adventure book, full of stiff upper lips and overcoming fear and wishing sadly that one didn’t have to kill quite so many of the enemy.  There’s really only one evil German, and even his fellow soldiers don’t approve of his actions.

The plan goes wrong almost immediately, and disaster after disaster strikes the team.  Mr. MacLean was really good at amplifying the suspense and making the heroes the underdogs of the story.  TRIGGER WARNING:  The evil German indulges in some torture briefly

There are some large character changes from the book to the movie (the movie actually has women in it) so even if you’ve seen the film, the book should still have some surprises.  Highly recommended.

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