Loner John Rambo is now working in a Buddhist monestary in Thailand and stick fights for extra money. Rambo is approached by friend and mentor Colonel Sam Trautman , who asks him to help transport anti-aircraft FIM 92-A Stinger missiles to the Mujhadeen fighters in Afghanistan to fight off invading Russian armies. Rambo declines because his killing has to end. Trautman respects this, but advises him to come full-circle and come to terms with who he is, a soldier. Rambo isn't ready for this and Trautman goes in alone. Rambo is then informed that Trautman has been abducted by the Soviets and is being tortured in a prison camp. Here Rambo decides to start a rescue mission with a few Mujhaideen fighters so he can rescue Trautman. Along the way, Rambo becomes friends with the Mujhadeen and a French doctor that becomes his love interest. Each chapter begins with the respective law of Buddha. There are numerous artistic liberties Morrell took when writing the book, as there are many subplots not seen in the film. These include Rambo navigating his way through a massive sandstorm, Rambo nearly being quartered by horses, caring for orphaned children, Kourov joining the Mujhaideen, and Colonel Zaysen being stabbed to death by Rambo rather than dying in a helicopter crash. Since David Morrell was disappointed about the simplicity of the plot, he was granted artistic liberties from an earlier draft of the script to add scenes that didn't make it into the final cut of the movie. Morrell says that about 50% of the book is not in the movie.
One of many subtexts added was that the Soviet War with Afghanistan was a version of America’s involvement in Vietnam, with similar fracturing effects to each country’s veterans and culture. Who could have predicted that thirteen years later, the United States would fight its own long war in Afghanistan, with similar fracturing effects? Out of print for 22 years, Rambo III will soon be available as an e-book.