A while ago I finished reading On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Dave Grossman. It is non-fiction, and explains and explores the taboo of killing other people, the resistance we humans have against killing other humans and what society is doing to overcome that resistance in its armed branches such as police and military.
The book is very interesting, its comparisons with the repression and taboo of sex, and the subsequent obsession with it is very striking, and I personally had not seen it that way until now. A lot of the interviews with veterans of various wars are also interesting as they give a different view of combat than the one we are used to, some stories are very memorable and even heart warming, especially the ones where soldiers show clemency and mercy in spite of what authority tells them.
By far, the most useful and informative part of the book is the breakdown of the equation of killing. All the factors that will either increase or decrease the likelihood for a human to kill another human.
Seeing this equation puts it in a nice perspective, and one can start to compare and contrast with police or military training to see how they tip the scales in their favor when conditioning their subjects to kill.
Now to the bad parts.
The book should not be taken as absolute, peer reviewed fact. While it starts out in an academic fashion and explains the basis for its theories, it later derails into chapter-long rants and moans about how American society is to blame for its treatment of returning veterans of the Vietnam war. Exaggerating and making very emotional, biased arguments.
And if that was not enough Grossman, decides to squander his credentials by attempting to perpetuate the disproved myth that violent video-games and movies condition kids to become killers, or somehow makes the groups that take part in violent cultural expressions more liable to commit acts of murder and cruelty. The nonsensical notion that violent media makes violent media-consumers has been buried and forgotten in academic circles ever since the 90s. And to beat that dead horse serves no purpose but to flaunt the ignorance of the person doing the beating. Same goes with the entire “sheepdog” concept.
All and all I would recommend reading the first half of the book about the psychological mechanics and factors in killing, skip the rants about Vietnam vets and ravings about media-violence.