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First Blood Mass Market Paperback – February 1, 2000
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"I've been a Morrell fan for years -- and now more than ever".
-- Dean Koontz on Double Image
From the Back Cover
First came the man: a young wanderer in a fatigue coat and long hair. Then came the legend, as John Rambo sprang from the pages of FIRST BLOOD to take his place in the American cultural landscape. This remarkable novel pits a young Vietnam veteran against a small-town cop who doesn't know whom he's dealing with -- or how far Rambo will take him into a life-and-death struggle through the woods, hills, and caves of rural Kentucky.
Millions saw the Rambo movies, but those who haven't read the book that started it all are in for a surprise -- a critically acclaimed story of character, action, and compassion.
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Surprised, but not upset. First Blood was a pretty damn fine film, and when I found out that the series was based on a book, I knew I wanted to read it. It would be another handful of years before I got around to it: I’ve only just read the book this week.
The first day I had it, I burned through 100 pages in a single sitting. That’s not how I tend to read, because as much as I enjoy reading, my eyes aren’t what they once were and the constant pain in my body makes it difficult to focus on reading for long periods of time. I moved through the remainder of the book much slower than in that first sitting – about 20 pages at a time – but I still got through it in five days. That’s a lot faster than I read most books.
I'll avoid talking too much about the plot, as most people will know it by now. But there are some things I want to touch on.
What really stands out about the book is just how... proactive Rambo is when compared to the film version. He has no qualms with straight murdering people: during the jail escape, he immediately disembowels a man with the razor Teasle is trying to use to shave him. Later in the woods, he uses a rifle to kill the police office that’s shooting at him from the helicopter and managed to force the thing into crashing, killing the pilot. He then lays an ambush for Teasle’s men and wastes no time gunning down the 70-year-old dog trainer.
I could go on, but you get the idea. Once he’s switched back on during his Vietnam flashback, he never shuts it down again. The movie version seems reluctant to cause harm, he goes out of his way not to kill people. Not so in the book. Rambo’s body count is astronomical. It’s an interesting thematic difference.
The whole third act is really different from the film, especially where Trautman is concerned. In the book, Trautman knows Rambo by reputation alone, they don’t share the close familial bond depicted in the film. Trautman’s role in events is greatly increased in the film, and it’s for the better.
Over all I think it's a very good book, I highly recommend people read it. The film does some things better, but the book gets deeper into characterizing both Rambo and Teasle, something the film could have desperately used. I'd also suggest giving the film a watch as soon as you're done reading the book. They compliment each other well, especially if it's been a while since you've seen First Blood.
Like the movie, there's a lot of action. Conditioned by the movie, I saw Rambo was the hero, and Teasle was the antagonist. But the book isn't necessarily written that way. The two are the two sides of America during the late 60s.
I've reread this book several times, mostly the way one watches the same movie now and again. I'm too emotionally attached to be an objective reviewer.
Though based on Morrell's novel, Sylvester Stallone's movie is in no way the same story. Where the movie is a typical shoot-'em-up action flick, Morrell's creation is a complex character study of two war heroes – Rambo of Vietnam and Sheriff Teasle of Korea – and the strength and flaws that drive each of them. Where the movie is a MacDonald's burger and fries, the book a five course feast.
Morrell has written that his writing is greatly influenced by the fact he lost his father in WWII and that his step-father was abusive. You clearly see that influence in First Blood. Teasle lost his father at an early age, and Rambo's father was abusive. Teasle's marriage is breaking up over his desire to have children, particularly a boy. The imagery circulates through the book until, in the end, Teasle and Rambo are more estranged father and son then cop and fugitive.
This is a worthy book well deserving of its place in literature. But one warning: Do not read the author's introduction explaining the history of the book until after you've read the book. The intro contains spoilers
I saw the movie several times growing up, and I always enjoyed the survival tactics that Rambo employed to elude his pursuers. The book included these things, but it was a lot darker with Rambo killing countless police and soldiers. The book provided more insight into the mindsets and struggles of Rambo and Sheriff Teasle, which I enjoyed because it helped the reader to understand what drove the two men. I also thought the book left the reader with more of a sense of grayness as to who was “right” and who was “wrong” as Rambo and Teasle went to war against each other.
The author included some internal dialogue with Rambo’s character where he talked to himself and tried to rationalize his actions. I found this interesting and it is here where the reader really has a chance to understand what led Rambo to down his path of destruction. I felt these interactions showed Rambo’s past, why he made some of the choices when Teasle pushed him, and it made him appear to be a bit more human rather than just a killing machine.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. The Vietnam conflict was nearly 40 years ago, and I suspect our views have likely changed since this was published in 1972. Despite the age of the book, I thought it was an interesting read to show the stress of war and the stress of integrating a trainer soldier back into society.
an effect on people today.
How many of you have come across situations like the one
in the story, hopefully not with the same ending, even in today's
I went through that time period, and watched Vietnam Vets being
treated like Rambo was, by Law Enforcement.
It was part of the times, sad to say.
The book goes into very fine details, that the movie never could, and
to me is much more enjoyable.
If you have not read the book yet, do so.
If you have read it before, do so again.