Over this past weekend I found just enough time to finish reading Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose, a book about the story of the men ofÂ E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne, U.S. Army infantry. Back in 2006 HBO had turned this book into a 10-episodes mini series which I avidly watched in one shot one day while visiting my friend Vinny in Massachusetts. He had a pretty nice home theater system hook up at his place and since there was nobody else around, we were able to watch it all with the volume turned way up.
The book tells us the story about the men that formed Easy Company, from the early days of their boot camp at Camp Toccoa, to their many missions through Europe including the D-Day invasion of Normandy, the failed invasion of Holland, the Battle of the Bulge, culminating with the capture of Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.
Traditionally people say that books are usually better than the movies that were based on them, so I had pretty high expectations about reading it. The first chapter was quickly finished and I thought to myself, “I’ll be done with it before the week is over.” Unfortunately, the next following chapters didn’t read as smooth as the first one, and my spider senses started telling me that I was in for a not so pleasant surprise. The entire book felt like reading a quilt of different stories that were hastily put together from memory with several missing gaps sown in between. Some paragraphs would start telling you a story in a tense and the next one would totally change the flow to a flashback or a dialog, leaving me hanging and wondering about what had really happened to the original idea. It was a major turn off for me!
Despite all of this, I decided to finish the book with the hope that something new that was not included in the HBO series would come up, but that was not the case. This was definitely a case where the movie came out better than the book and I have to tip my hat to producers Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks for doing a fantastic job at turning this book into a masterpiece!
One thing about the story itself that impressed me was how most of the survivors from Easy Company, once back in the US after the war, took advantage of some of the programs the government offered to them and went to college to pursue a higher education, some going on to become very successful business man or instructors/teachers! Another interesting point that was brought up by the book (and not as much in the mini series) was how important Captain Sobel's rigorous and, dare I say sadistic, training methodology played a major role into shaping Easy Company into a well oiled war machine. The mini series only portraits him as a petty, chickenshit slinging, tyrant-abusing character but one could say that it was because of Sobel that Easy Company men became the best of friends and were able to surpass every single obstacle that the war threw their way!
If you asked me to recommend the book or the mini series? Go with the mini series, no doubt about it!