From Publishers Weekly
The author of The Soul of a New Machine put in a year during the Vietnam War; he was a reluctant warrior. Kidder joined ROTC in his junior year at Harvard as a way of avoiding the draft's uncertainties. Two years later he was taking part in a war that he found "unnecessary, futile, racist," serving as a lieutenant commanding an Army Security Agency detachment of eight enlisted men inside a well-fortified infantry base camp. As a shaved-headed ROTC cadet and later as an army officer, Kidder felt "separated from my social class, from my student generation"; in Vietnam, he detached himself emotionally from the mind-numbing army bureaucracy, from his ticket-punching career officer superiors and from his iconoclastic, work-shirking enlisted men. For Kidder, there are no heroes, and, in fact, few "war stories"; he presents, instead, realistic day-to-day reports on what happened to him at his posting: the mission was to interpret enemy troop movements using raw intelligence data supplied by eavesdropping technology. His account is an introspective, demythologizing dose of reality seen through the eyes of a perceptive, though immature, army intelligence lieutenant at a rear-area base camp. War isn't hell here; it's "an abstraction, dots on a map."
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At its best, My Detachment resembles classic wartime satires like Catch-22 and M*A*S*H in its demonstration that the worst battles many soldiers face are against boredom and mindless military bureaucracy. Critics appreciated Kidders eagerness to probe his lack of valor and his candor in disclosing his habit of inventing combat experiences to compensate for his unglamorous army career. Its an honest account of his military life. Yet its also one that some critics considered pointless, as though time had failed to give Kidder the perspective to appreciate his sacrifice in fighting a war he could easily have avoided, as well as his good fortune in avoiding the combat that cost 58,000 American lives.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
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