220 of 232 people found the following review helpful
Not just another war novel; an American narrative classic,
This review is from: Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War (Hardcover)
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Whatever you think you know about war, about men under arms and about the war in Vietnam will be challenged by this book. It's quite simply a masterpiece.
The letter from the publisher included with the review copy of this book says that Vietnam War and USMC veteran Karl Marlantes wrote this over the thirty years after his service ended. It was worth every minute of the wait.
Marlantes presents us with a classic of American literature. That it falls into the genre of war literature is secondary to the stunning narrative, the vivid characters, and the gravity of every action depicted over more than 500 riveting pages.
"Matterhorn" is centered on the experience of a Waino Mellas, a USMC second lieutenant and infantry officer, during the first three months of his thirteen-month rotation in Vietnam. Among the conflicts Mellas is forced to comprehend at a rapid pace (and which Marlantes illustrates with precision, simplicity and unerring accuracy):
-replacements and veterans
-conscripts and careerists
-officers and enlisted
-blacks and whites
-infantry and aviation
-the differing realities of command elements in the rear and maneuver forces in contact with an elusive and determined enemy.
Some of these were unique or amplified in Vietnam, others are enduring issues in any military setting. Marlantes captures them with museum-quality clarity.
Marlantes threads these conflicts and navigates Mellas through three combat patrols as he seeks to understand his own competence as a leader of young men whose lives and limbs -like his own- are subject to the variable qualities of enemy ordnance, the decisions of leaders and their commitment to each other.
The dialog is crisp and realistic, the characters are vivid and complex (even those who could easily be reduced to stereotype or caricature in a lesser work). The heat and chill of jungle warfare...the hunger, thirst and pain of the infantryman...the dark humor grown by those who face the threat of sudden death or maiming...the bureaucratic absurdities that every war inflicts on its participants...each is superbly presented.
Marlantes presents this story in the third person, and I had my own ideas about where he would take Mellas at the end of the book. I was wrong about this and about where the narrative would end. To say anything more would deprive other readers of their own opportunity to journey to Vietnam with Waino Mellas. But make the journey with him; you'll be better for doing so.
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Initial post: May 15, 2010 5:17:30 AM PDT
The reviewer is spot on. A true masterpiece.
Posted on Nov 30, 2010 9:08:28 AM PST
C. S. says:
Thank you for a great review!
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