Very solid piece of writing but could have been better
I don’t know if this is an autobiographical piece of the author but in terms of authenticity, I believe that very few war books can compete with it. The ‘drama’ is limited, which is good; another good thing is that the narrative is quite fast paced and does not drag. On another note, I have not read a better description of the Vietnam War zone than I found in this one. This book is yet another grim reminder why there should not be another Vietnam War and why we all must make efforts to stall it if such a war is forthcoming in the near future. After all, we don’t want another taste of the ugly war which killed many people, good and bad. The author has an eye for detail and while some readers may find it boring, I highly commend the author for going the extra mile:
“He had watched a buck threading its way along a distant wooded ridge that late afternoon. Visible one moment and hidden in the shadows the next, the buck reappeared far back in the trees as Duff steadied his rifle. This was his last opportunity to stock the family freezer with much-needed venison before leaving. Again the buck disappeared, but then it was there in his crosshairs. At nearly four hundred yards, Duff found only the deer’s front shoulder visible. That was all he needed. Holding fifteen inches high, he squeezed off the shot.”
The atmosphere as well as the movements of the buck keep you in a totally tensed state. That does not however mean that the novel contains overly graphic violence; I appreciate the control the author has exercised in making sure that people of most ages can read it without cringing.
The dialogs are the typical stuff you would expect from these guys (very realistic):
“It’s bad over there, isn’t it,” Lacey said. “I mean, that’s what he wrote in the letter, right?”
Brady cranked the engine and pulled back onto the road.
“Yeah. He said I should join the National Guard or go to college.”
“What do you want?” Lacey asked.
“What do you mean?”
“What do you want to do with your life?”
“I don’t really know.”
Although it is mostly the character’s actions and atmosphere they are in which keep the reader on the edge of his seat, rather than the dialogs:
“Her eyes changed from defiance to a plea—but for what? She tried to speak, but managed only a weak murmur. The blood gurgled in her one remaining lung.
“What?” Duff said, pulling her closer. “Tell me what it is. What did you say? What can I do?”
More blood trickled from the corner of her mouth, and she grasped the waist of her pajamas with one hand, and looked at him with pleading eyes. He knew what it was. He heard someone behind him and turned. It was the interpreter. He turned back to the girl and looked into her eyes as he spoke.”
On the negative: I found most of the characters to be one or two dimensional ones: they were either good or bad, rather than gray. I do believe that there is really no truly ‘good’ or ‘bad’ people on earth; we are all ‘somewhere in between’. I’d have appreciated characters with a bit more depth; the only character I could connect to was that of Lacey. The romance is typical.
Overall, this book is worth buying just for getting a taste of the first class, flawless writing style of the author and enlightening oneself about the dark realism of the Vietnam War.