Book Review: Game of Snipers by Stephen Hunter
By Weston OchseAugust 8, 2019
In Game of Snipers by Stephen Hunter, master sniper Bob Lee Swagger is back, and this time he’s taking on his biggest job to date… and confronting an assassin with skills that match his own.
Now seventy-two years old and living a peaceful life on his ranch in Cascade, Idaho, the world’s greatest sniper wants nothing more than peace. After all, he’s done it all. Survived it all. And now should reap the benefits of being the last man standing. All would have been like this if it hadn’t been for that cheap little rental car coming up his long drive.
Enter stage left—the mother of Lance Corporal Thomas McDowell, a sniper in his own right whose mother received him in a box. It is the mother who drove the car. The mother who sold all of her worldly possessions. The mother who converted to Islam and learned Arabic so she could better understand her son’s killer. The mother who was beaten, sometimes raped, and disregarded as she stumbled through more than fifteen years of clues that would cause her to come to Bobby Lee Swagger, where she hoped he might just carry her weight the rest of the way and kill her son’s killer before he can kill any more young boys. And that killer is none other than the legendary Juba.
The woman was determined. Nothing stopped her, not even the labyrinths of technical detail, shooting culture and its nuances, its contradictions, its loads of false information, its arbitrary names for things that made no sense and just had to be memorized.
Fans of Bobby Lee Swagger will delight in this unflinching good guy vs bad guy tale. The book really shines when we are with Juba who sees the entire world as a kill box, something for him to manipulate to his own purposes. For Juba is not your one-dimensional bad guy, but a deeply complex master sniper whose formation is as interesting as Bobby Lee Swagger’s. It’s always in the point of view who the good and the bad are. Champions of Juba would find Bobby Lee the bad guy, which demonstrates how well-written Game of Snipers truly is.
I laughed out loud at many of the scenes with Swagger and the Mossad. Hunter’s military and political banter strike as true as his sniper rounds. But it is Swagger’s ability to know what it is that a sniper needs that allows them to find Juba.
He’s teaching himself to hit from way out. Beyond security service worry zones. Really, beyond infantry ranges. He’s not training for battle but for assassination. It seems in his last operation, the one in Dubai, that he was out farther than he’d ever been. He’s teaching himself how to hit the long ones from a cold barrel. I have to tell you, that’s way outstanding stuff. The long shots in Afghanistan came at the end of a sequence where the shooter was either able to walk his rounds in unnoticed or had already zeroed in on that spot the day before. Juba can’t afford to walk round in against high-value targets.
In the end, it’s as we want it. Juba and Swagger, ready to exchange 7.62mm haymakers, which makes the novel what it is—a true testament to Doris McDowell’s drive and Bobby Lee Swagger’s courage. Juba against Swagger. A Game of Snipers.