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1968: A Novel Hardcover – June, 1995


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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: William Morrow & Co; First Edition edition (June 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688090230
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688090234
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,345,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Evoking painful nostalgia, Haldeman's (The Forever Wars) tragic and depressing novel chronicles a year in the life of Darcy "Spider" Speidel, a combatant in and victim of Vietnam. A teenage college dropout, Spider is drafted and sent to Nam as a combat engineer. Spider is just a scared, uncertain kid reluctantly playing the game of war for keeps; after he's wounded during the onset of the Tet offensive, he's evacuated back to the States, where his real war begins. His onetime sweetheart, embroiled in the hippy counterculture, has taken up with a new, draft-deferred boyfriend. Confused and helpless, the traumatized Spider lacks the support of even his doctors and his family. Haldeman uses bold language, powerful images and a graphic style to tell his emotional tale, in which concentrated, diary-like entries intensify the drama and despair. He also takes every opportunity to engage in social criticism, ranging from the conduct of the war to draft inequities, from the sexual revolution to the failings of military medical care. He even tries unconvincingly to resurrect the conspiracy theories surrounding the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. Affecting and compelling on several levels, Spider's story may nevertheless strike readers as a Forrest Gump without any hope or inspiration.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Haldeman has been one of science fiction's brightest stars for two decades but is less renowned for his Vietnam War novels. The third, 1968, deals with a year in the life of Snake, a combat engineer in the Central Highlands just before the Tet offensive. Wounded on a patrol, he is medevac'd to the U.S. and diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. He spends the rest of the year, both in the hospital and afterward, trying to come to terms with his family, the country, the war, and especially the memory of his last patrol. Haldeman's spare, flat prose is perfectly suited to a story containing so many tensions and so much emotion, and his ironic asides on weapons, customs, and psychiatric procedures provide not just background, but acrid commentary. A powerful novel, 1968 is worthy of careful reading, for although veterans will be instantly attuned to Haldeman's voice, what he has to say will also repay those who bring to it only a casual knowledge of the war. Dennis Winters

More About the Author

Joe Haldeman has served twice as president of the Science Fiction Writers of America and is currently an adjunct professor teaching writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 5, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
While I love many of Haldeman's science fiction novels, I think 1968 is his best work. He dealt with his Vietnam experience in a very different way in The Forever War by presenting it in a futuristic setting. Here, he confronts it head on, and I think that's what makes 1968 even more powerful than The Forever War. It's amazing to me how little has changed as far as military life goes after reading this book. I was in the Marine Corps infantry in the early nineties, and the same lingo is still being used--like taking "pogey bait" out to the field with you, for example. Even though I, nor others of my generation, can imagine what the Vietname war was really like, I think Haldeman's novel is one of the best at giving us a taste of what it was like. But there's much more to 1968 than just a soldier's Vietnam experience. Much of the book takes place after the main character, Spider, returns home. He arrives a changed man, and the home he remembered has also changed. Haldeman doesn't give us a neat, clean resolution to the story, but what he does give us--a bitter taste of reality--seems so much more real than most novels. I also really enjoyed Tim O'Briens The Things They Carried, but 1968 was slightly more powerful for me. If you also like science fiction, you might enjoy some of the details in 1968--at one point Spider is reading Glory Road by Robert Heinlein, and at another point a soldier is reading The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. There's also a little bit of astronomy thrown in, if that's your thing. So personally, 1968 had a lot going for it in addition to its main motive. I think this is Haldeman's crowning acheivement, and I'd like to see it back in print. Also, I think Haldeman has at least one more good Vietnam novel in him.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Michael Allan Scott, Author of the Lance Underphal Mysteries on November 28, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
1968 is wonderfully written, brilliantly clear and brutally honest -- my favorite kind of book. Having lived (barely) through my own personal hell that year, I can attest to this novel's piercing insight. I was captivated by the concise portrayal of Spider's suffering at the hands of the military industrial complex and Beverly's dazed trip through the counter-culture of Peace & Love. 1968 is a historical novel whose history is far more accurate that the 'official' accounts pawned off on the public. This book deserves no less than #1 'Best Seller' status.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 26, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a great novel, and harrowing journey inside the soul of 1968. If you were there then this is you, or someone you knew. If you weren't then prepare take a step back to a very strange time. Haldeman tells it straight on Vietnam. No Full Metal Jacket bull here, this is what we did. The writing is superb, and the story intense. This is the book I'm giving my kids when they are old enough, to help them understand what their old man thinks about.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By driley@cyberramp.net on November 9, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
My father was in Vietnam, and he doesn't talk much about it. All my information on what the war was about/like has come from authors who were there, like Haldeman. As a matter of fact, the only reason I knew about this title is because I'm an avid fan of Haldeman's SF; therefore, I had to give this a try, and I'm glad I did. This book is quite depressing, maybe better or worse than others' experiences, but it gets the message across. The last chapter wraps the book up in an unexpectedly tight fashion.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Dalton on May 4, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Without a doubt, Joe Haldenman recaptures the historical and turbulent moments of a year that will always be remembered for its political and social issues. Not only is the story multi-dimesional and historically accurate, but the characters are also multi-dimensional. Ones that you will feel sympathy for in the end. If you enjoy studying, or reading about the turbulent '60's, then 1968 is the novel for you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David F. Mcginnis on January 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
If you read this book you will learn why 1969 was such a great year! By the time we had gotten through 1968 we were entitled to something good and it came. Like everything in the 60's, 1969 did not live up to its promise but we did learn from it -- and we had a lot of fun too.

In 1968 I graduated from high school. My awareness was limited and in that I was a lot like Spider. However it was impossible NOT to be aware of some things. Assasinations left and right; rioting in city after city; Prague; "My fellow American, I come to you tonight with a heavy heart"; Humphrey refusing to promise peace; Chicago; the election of Nixon. Pretty grim.

So this is a pretty grim book, how could it be otherwise. It is faithful to its subject and describes it well, which makes for a downer. Almost every page had me saying "Yep, that's how it was."

But you know, it might have been better without the retrospectives. I think Joe tried to alleviate the bummer by putting in intermezzos or in-between chapters which give today's views on certain things. This gives a sense of "everything's gonna be okay, we made it to the future intact" whereas that was no sure thing at the time -- another reason to celebrate in 1969.

Joe, why don't you do Spider a favor and let him experience the Summer of Love? After the Summer of Hate, he deserves it!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Randy Stafford VINE VOICE on July 31, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Fans of Haldeman's science fiction might be expecting an autobiographical novel when they find out that this is the story of a nineteen year old draftee who serves as a combat engineer in the Vietnam of 1968. That was the year Haldeman was a combat engineer there, and, like protagonist Spider, he was wounded then. But much of the novel doesn't seem specifically autobiographical though Haldeman's lean prose certainly uses his own experiences to recreate everything from the details of Vietnam's red soil, the contents of an engineer's demolition pack while on patrol, boobytraps, and the workings and non-workings of various weapons. Haldeman's dry, ironic prose has the right air of understatement for horrors that need no exaggeration. Science fiction fans will also be interested to see how the horrors that drove Spider psychotic are worked into the genre fiction he writes at his therapist's request.
Haldeman's most famous work, THE FOREVER WAR, was a metaphoric look at Vietnam. Here he shuns obliqueness to recreate an America at war. Using the novelistic techniques of Dos Passos, we learn about the persons and events of the time in documentary sections interspersed between accounts of Spider and his one time girlfriend, Beverly, whose journey skims the oceans of political dissent and counterculture existing on the homefront. Spider's troubles are only beginning when he's evacuated back home after being wounded in an ambush that wipes out most of his patrol. The entropic workings of bureaucracy and malfunctioning machinery coincide to strip him of home, family, friends, and gainful employment. Only rarely does coincidence -- and Haldeman's coincidences are always plausible -- work in his favor. One instance leads to the book's powerful ending.
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