- Paperback: 490 pages
- Publisher: Aperture Press (November 1, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0983687889
- ISBN-13: 978-0983687887
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 40 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,488,905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Cib: Combat Infantryman Badge Paperback – November 1, 2011
"...a gritty read of the Vietnam war, a choice pick for those seeking novels related to the conflict." --Midwest Book Review
Silver Medal winner for Literary Fiction --2013 Military Writers Society of America Awards
From the Inside Flap
Suddenly the horizon beyond the jungle lit up, painting the bottoms of the scattered low cumulus clouds in flickering shades of white, yellow, and orange. Many seconds later, a low rumble reached them...
"Redlegs. Artillery. Big stuff by the sound of it. Eight-inchers or 175's, maybe."
Unexpectedly, first one, then a second and third point of light blossomed in the western sky. The burning lights cast more stable illumination on the upper lobes of the clouds than had the cannon shell explosions. The descending flares left bright, smoky yellow trails, lighting the clouds from within and then emerging below as they drifted slowly to the left. When the first set was nearly eclipsed by the intervening vegetation, another string of lights was born and began its gradual descent.
"Spooky," said B.J.
"Yeah," agreed Phil. "Weird."
B.J. chuckled. "No, I mean it's called 'Spooky'. It's an AC-47 gunship. Some guys call it 'Puff the Magic Dragon' too.
"You mean like the C-47's the paratroopers jumped out of in World War II? My Uncle Paul was one of those guys. He made the jump across the Rhine."
"You got me. I guess so. Never saw one close-up in the daytime. But if you ever see one working a target, you won't never forget it. They got three 7.62 miniguns that fire out one side of the plane and they just keep circling and shooting until there ain't nothing left alive that can shoot back."...
As if on cue, a shimmering red line extended from a black patch of sky, rapidly growing longer until it reached the ground, which seemed to absorb it. "There! That's Puff."
Because of the distance and close proximity of the miniguns, the three streams of tracers appeared as one, glittering ruby line. It hung there, tying earth and sky together for a few seconds and then tipped from the vertical, like a falling tree, as the plane orbited its target on the ground. Abruptly the fiery column was drawn into the land, becoming steadily shorter, until it vanished. The mesmerizing performance had been made even more fantastic by its utter silence. The distant muttering of the artillery had ceased while Puff worked the target.
Lawson thought it was one of the most beautiful sights he had ever seen. He might have felt differently if he had been able to see the gunners scrambling to reload the guns in their noisy aircraft at the top end of the dazzling line, and the torn, bleeding, dying men at the bottom.
"Get some, Puff!" rooted B.J. The spectacle was repeated from a different spot in the darkness. They could see a splatter of ricochets where the streams of bullets hosed the earth.
"Wow!" Phil breathed. "With all this firepower, it's just a matter of time before we beat the VC, don't you think?" B.J.'s face scrunched up and his mouth dropped open, but before he could respond, Lawson continued. "You know, I was worried this'd be over before I got here. What do the Viet Cong have that could even come close to that?"
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The negative thing about this book, and I'll get it out of the way first because I like to end on a happier note, is that it spends way too much time chronicling the mundane (and uninteresting) details of the young protagonist as he arrives in country and learns what's what. It reads almost like a diary in that regard, and tended to be just a bit tedious in some sections. Even those of us who didn't go there already knew all that stuff and didn't really need to read about it again, especially in such detail.
There were also certain editing problems that I find annoying in a published book (pet peeve: not knowing the difference between "your" and "you're") and on the kindle version the spacing got a little wonky at times. Another pet peeve of mine is a writer trying to phonetically emulate a strong southern accent. Bronx accents or Boston accents or Chicago accents don't receive that treatment, but the Tennessean's dialog was spelled entirely as it sounded, meaning he didn't like something, he "lahked" it. As a reader I found it distracting.
That said, CIB is from a point of view I had not previously encountered, that of a driver / gunner in a mechanized infantry group. We've all read the stories (or seen the movies) of the legs on the hump through the jungles but the mechanized infantry had a different experience, and Rambow does a good job of explaining what that lesser known military career felt like at the time. (I suspect the story actually is autobiographical in some ways.)
The action sections, although infrequent, were well written. The visit to the bordello and the crush on the prostitute received more attention than perhaps was necessary but it was handled well enough. The protagonist's love interest in the girl from Australia seemed so improbable I had to remember to suspend my disbelief but again Rambow worked it in without it devolving into something prurient.
So would I recommend this book? Yes, with the above caveats. Perhaps the best way I can sum it up is this: I plan on reading the sequel. Any author that hooks me enough to read a second book deserves a nod.
My Father never talked to me about his time in Vietnam though I did listen in when he and his fellow soldiers got together at our place, (It was one of those strictly enforced "seen but not heard" situations while growing up as a kid in the 60's, lol). This book brought to life many of the names, places and experiences they too talked about during my Father's first tour in Vietnam. For that reason I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book as it gave me an insight to their experiences. I am currently well into the second book ROE.
Instead, I will simply say, if you like military fiction, as you must if you're reading this review, stop wasting valuable time you could be spending reading this book. Click the "buy it with one click" button. Do so immediately. You are only hurting yourself by ignoring my sage advice!