Bloody Heroes by Damien Lewis Century, HK$270 Rarely will you read a non-fiction thriller packed with so much blood and thunder. Sure, boredom and absurdity a la Jarhead also creep into this account written by a journalist and documentary-maker who has worked for The Telegraph, The Guardian and the BBC. But, set in the seismic year 2001, Bloody Heroes is Homeric in the sweep and ferocity of the battles it covers. The story opens with the first attack on a terrorist ship, the MV Nisha, carrying weapons of mass destruction to London. Spilling out of a Chinook helicopter, British special forces troops try to storm the ship during pre-dawn darkness. One of the boarding party, Mat, jumps straight into the action, taking out the first terrorist to see the invasion. 'He took three steps forwards to the top of the stairway,' Damien Lewis writes, 'and before the shocked figure could react, Mat smashed his fist into his jaw. The single, massive right hook lifted him bodily off his feet. As the man's knees buckled beneath him he went down hard, falling backwards down the stairs.' Mat and the gang duly secure the ship, but not before a scare that the CS gas the 'goodies' have released is the enemy's nerve gas. When Mat learns that's all it is, he promptly stops vomiting and reacts the way he would to laughing gas. Next stop Afghanistan. The story's six-strong special forces team now ventures into the soaring uncharted Naka Valley, in search of what allied intelligence has identified as the mother of all training camps. Struggling with altitude sickness, craggy terrain and the weight of their weapons, which makes some tumble, the men at first find nothing except a village headman. In a hilarious episode, the headman mocks the British mercilessly, deriding their history of losing in Afghanistan and their ragtag appearance. 'And even if you are British,' he says, 'you look just like the Americans ... only you are more scruffy and untidy', humbling and amusing the men who themselves have a fondness for sarcasm. When the soldiers explain that they've come to fight the Taleban, his attitude softens and he shows them terrorist weapons caches, which they blow up. Mission accomplished, sort of. The scruffy assassins move on to fight the Afghanistan battle in which more terrorists - 500 - perish than in any other. Previously responsible for another special forces chronicle, Operation Certain Death, Lewis pulls no punches conveying the explosive, chaotic violence of the five-day siege of the mud-walled Qala-I-Janghi fortress taken over by Taleban and al-Qaeda prisoners. After an allied smart bomb succeeds only in killing scores of allies, the invaders send in a tank and blow the fortress apart. The defenders then shelter in a warren of passageways under the stronghold. Influenced by the disastrous failure of the smart bomb tack, the allies decide to emulate the Middle Ages siege technique of pouring boiling oil on the enemy. 'Poured a few drums of diesel oil down into the basement, chucked in a couple of grenades, and bingo - one load of fried ragheads,' one special forces member says. Later, to finish the job, the allies hit on the idea of pumping in water. Among the walking dead that surface is none other than the white American Taleban, John Walker Lindh. Bloody Heroes is awash with terror, despair, defiance and insanity by the bucketload. You smell the smoke and feel the agony. Beats CNN.