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.
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