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Sympathy for the Devil Mass Market Paperback – August 1, 2000


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Reprint edition (August 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553580876
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553580877
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #530,557 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Reflecting the author's own experiences, the characters in this graphic, grippingly authentic first novel are the combat-tested soldiers of the Special Forces in Vietnam. Quinn, nerveless, seemingly made of granite and steel, amuses hismelf and some onlookers by biting off the heads of live ducklings. Hanson, the protagonist, who begins his mornings with beer and amphetamines, not only enlisted for service in Nam while in law school but signed on for an extra year for the privilege of joining the elite corps. "College boy" though he isa term of contempt mixed with envyhis patriotic credientials are unimpeachable: he, too, can't abide hippies, draft dodgers, antiwar protesters and other "sloths." When Quinn is accidentally killed by blundering American troops, Hanson exacts bizarre, deranged, murderous revenge in a wild climactic scene that serves to compound the novel's ambiguous perspective on war in general and the Vietnam conflict in particular. Though a skillful writer, Anderson's depiction of war is a shade too melodramatic and cinematic, too much a way of separating the men from the boys. Yet he vividly involves the reader in the unending nightmare thatHanson is "doomed to survive."
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Hanson is an effective killing machine in Vietnam. He exults in the chase, the surviving, the countryside, and a few buddies, like Quinn and Silver. In a series of episodes the cruelty and madness of war mold him into almost a nonhuman. The scenes of his basic training and the idiocy of his various officers strengthen his inner resources. In the dramatic climax his buddies die, but Hanson is "doomed to survive the war." There are plenty of passages of power and almost unbearable descriptions in this deeply felt first novel; but the organization of the material is shaky, and some of the transitions are weak. Still, a potent study of men at war. Robert H. Donahugh, Youngstown & Mahoning Cty. P.L., Ohio
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I don't say this often, but this is one of the very best books I've ever read.
R.D. Hight
Like my friends who will never understand the brotherhood that is the Army, I will never understand the horrors of the Vietnam War.
DREW ROSS (dross@northlich.com)
The book ends the way it does because the author wanted the reader to contemplate what it means.
Cory L. Sweeney

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Charlotte Vale-Allen VINE VOICE on June 1, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a truly remarkable book, one that could only have been written by someone who'd experienced the madness of the Vietnam conflict and lived to tell about it. It is the most powerfully authentic of all the books I've read on the subject and succeeds because it takes us along on the transformation process. We are witnesses to how a young man discovers the seeds of primal savagery within himself and, thanks to military training, is set "free" in a fashion, to go to war. Within the context of Hanson's mindset, through his eyes, we see all that is evil and ugly simultaneously externalized and internalized. In Hanson's war there is a scalding justice that is meted out on those who are arrogant, or stupid, or in the wrong place at the wrong time, or who are too young to comprehend the training they've received (or victims of its inadequacy.) Death is everywhere, pointless yet necessary to satisfy a general's need for another star for his epaulettes; to vanquish an enemy it's too often impossible to recognize. The sights, the smells, the reek and feel of torn earth, torn bodies, the melting death of an Agent Orange landscape, invade the reader's senses; with lyrical force we are taken with Hanson through the madness that is his soldier's life and, ultimately, becomes ours.
A powerful tour-de-force, this book is peerless, an absolute must-read for anyone with the least curiosity of what too many young men faced eight thousand miles from everything familiar, and what those who survived brought home to relive in their day- and nightmares forever.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By R.D. Hight on February 3, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Kent Anderson can really write. I mean, it's good that he's writing from experience, and it's good that he's chosen such important subject matter, but the main reason Sympathy for the Devil is such a good book is simply that Anderson knows what he's doing so completely.
This book covers Anderson's Army Special Forces protagonist, Hanson, through boot camp and two tours in Vietnam. The sequel, Night Dogs, is about Hanson in his job as a police offier after the war. I highly recommend them both, but if you don't feel like buying the pair, Sympathy for the Devil stands alone just fine.
The only caveat is that the book is pretty well hashed up into a series of anecdotes, incidents, and short-story-length pieces. It's a detailed account, but it's out of sequence and light on context. As far as I'm concerned, that makes it even stronger, but I've talked to people who disagreed, so I mention it here. If you're looking for a Vietnam book that's more orderly and educational, I suggest something by James Webb, who seems to have quite a bit of the journalist in him, or one of the oral-history books, like Nam.
But Sympathy for the Devil is really a beauty. It doesn't so much try to be a book on The War, like those others, but it gets ahold of you, it easily keeps you reading, and it really does make you think-- and not about foreign policy or the military's conduct in Vietnam or anything like that. It's more about the things Hanson tries, the lengths he goes to, in dealing with the Army and the enemy.
I don't say this often, but this is one of the very best books I've ever read.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Johnny Roulette on May 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
Kent Anderson has given me what I've been looking for in a VietNam book. It's as good as James Crumley's One To Count Cadence, butwith more combat. Where Going After Cacciato wandered through a dreamlike, surrealistic landscape, Sympathy trudges through the brutal terrain of realism. Sure, the facts are a bit off...but this is presented as a work of fiction. It seems like that's the best approach if you want to tell the absolute truth about some of the brutalities of war. The only flaw I found here was the small segment dealing with the return to the States. The prose flowed much more naturally( as well as more believably) when Hanson(the lead character) is actually in Viet Nam. I already own Anderson's Liquor, Guns & Ammo...Sympathy has guaranteed that I will soon own Night Dogs. Anderson has an amzing eye for detail and handles dialogue rather smoothly. This one will knock the air right out of you, but when you get your breath back your first word will be MORE! Dennis McMillan has published some of Anderson's work, deservedly placing him in the company of masters like James Crumley, Charles Willeford, and other hard-boiled craftsman. Anderson writes about war without losing you in the terminology. There wasn't a single part of the book where I couldn't figure out what he was talking about. It's as easy to read as it is ugly. Crumley's introduction is as good as the actual book. He also lists several other excellent books of the genre for you to explore.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By bcoley@mindspring.com on March 16, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The book, Sypathy for the Devil, is about as honest a book as I have ever read. This is not a book about what a "great Killer I am". This simply tells the story of a man that changed in Vietnam because he had to to survive. Anderson is just telling readers how the war really was. I have read this book six times and highly recommend it for those who have been in the service, are in the service, or who will be in the service.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dan on August 28, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Having just read this book and the Illiad, the similarities are readily apparent. The callousness, brutality, and combat addiction of Hanson and his Green Beret teammates are as timeless as the effects of war on Achilles, Hector, and the rest of the warriors of the 2,000 year old classic. That's what is so great about this book; despite the vast change in the technology, methodology, and reasons behind war, its effects on the human psyche are the same. Many previous reviews knock the book for its geographical or chronological inaccuracies; but this book is not a memoir of Vietnam, it is a profound statement on violence and what it does to us. Sympathy for The Devil really made me think about the Special Forces guys out on the front lines in Afghanistan, and how they and their families are adapting when they rotate home.
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