Book review of: Aimen Dean: Nine Lives: My Time as MI6’s Top Spy Inside Al-Qaeda. London: One World Publications, 2018. pp.480. Hb. ISBN: 9781786073280. RRP: £18.99
Dr Florence Gaub
There is more than one aspect of this jihadi account that resembles Elizabeth Gilbert’s famous story of a woman on a spiritual journey around the world, ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. Just as Gilbert, Dean sets out from his hometown in Bahrain because of a profound spiritual questioning. But where she heads to Italy and India, he heads to Bosnia and the Philippines. Although Gilbert seeks meaning through meditation and Dean through combat, the two books are both ultimately a thorough reflection on values, and how far we are willing to go to live true to them. Both do not just detail the often harsh living reality in remote places, they take the reader on a very intimate journey of the mind (even though they also, at times, read like Lonely Planet travel guides).
Dean’s account is more than the story of a Generation X traveller lost in a post-modern world – it is a gripping description of his trajectory from a young Mujahedeen overlooking Sarajevo to an early joiner of Al-Qaeda and ultimately informer for Britain’s intelligence services that makes this book a worthy and touching read.
Dr Gaub is Deputy Director of the European Institute for Security Studies. Her most recent book is The Cauldron: NATO’s Libya Operation. London: Hurst, 2018.