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War Of The Rats Hardcover – July 6, 1999

4.0 out of 5 stars 288 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

David L. Robbins grimly recounts the merciless determination of the German and Soviet combatants of the battle of Stalingrad in War of the Rats. Drawing from real events, Robbins tells the story of one of the battle's most pivotal contests: the famous sniper duel between Chief Master Sergeant Vasily Zaitsev and S.S. Colonel Heinz Thorvald. Zaitsev, a cunning Siberian hunter hardened by Stalingrad's butchery, has formed an impromptu sniper school in the midst of the battle, training his comrades to kill with implacable efficiency. The hundreds of bodies left in their wake prompt the Nazi leadership to send Thorvald, the cold-blooded master of the Wehrmacht's elite sniper academy, to assassinate the Soviet prodigy. Robbins's nerve-wracking prose depicts the two adversaries as they pursue their private war across a twisted hellscape of burning tanks and gutted factories. In the novel's most impressive section, Robbins leaps between the thoughts of Zaitsev and Thorvald as they struggle, in their final battle, to put the crosshairs on each other's head. A war novel that reveals the shrewd savagery in human nature, War of the Rats vividly reveals why the Germans referred to the fighting at Stalingrad as Der Rattenkrieg. --James Highfill

From Publishers Weekly

Set in the rubble of Stalingrad during WWII, Robbins's second novel hinges on a dramatic mano a mano confrontation between a Russian sniper and his German counterpart during a pivotal stretch of the historic 1942 siege. Vasily Zaitsev is "The Hare," a hunter from the Ural Mountains with deadly skills as a chief master sergeant in the Red Army. His proficiency as a marksman attracts considerable attention from both sides, starting when his Russian bosses put him in charge of a "sniper school" to supplement the front-line soldiers. Zaitsev and his students have so much success against the Nazis that the Germans deploy a master sniper of their own, SS Colonel Heinz Thorvald (aka "The Headmaster"), to assassinate Zaitsev and turn the tide in the battle for Stalingrad. The beleaguered city itself becomes a character in the struggle as Zaitsev and Thorvald attempt to outmaneuver one another. Stalingrad also harbors a pair of lovers, as Zaitsev conducts a passionate affair with fellow sniper Tania Chernova, the headstrong daughter of New York-dwelling Russian immigrants. Tania joins the fight for Russia after she travels to Minsk in hopes of rescuing her grandparents, only to watch them die at the hands of the Germans. Robbins does a brilliant job of dissecting the unique mindset and steely emotions that snipers must possess and painting the battle scenes, but none of the primary characters escapes war novel clich?s. The final confrontation takes a while to play out, but once Robbins (Souls to Keep) gets to the heart of the matter, he presents a riveting account of a battle within a battle, and the sniper motif proves an ideal vehicle to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of both sides. Agent, Marcy Posner. (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; 1st edition (July 6, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553108174
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553108170
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (288 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #606,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I was expecting somewhat more from this novel than it delivered. The setting was excellent, and I have no problem with the "pro-Russian" slant which offended some other readers -- it was, after all, written from the Russian protagonists' perspective. Keeping in mind the Commissars' propagandic exploitation of Soviet heroes, I found the "noble" portrayals of the Red Army appropriate and realistic. Some of the technical discrepancies were distracting, but in general not enough to ruin it for this reader. It's a novel, after all, a fictionalized account of real historical events and people. (Zaitsev's training of his "hares" is well-documented, although it's questionable whether the "famous" duel ever actually occurred.) What damages the book, in my opinion, is the sappy love-story. It really detracts from the gritty realism of the Battle of Stalingrad. I'm glad the character of Tanya was included, since many female combatants fought and died for their Motherland. I wish she had been written as the Ukrainian upon whom her character was based; maybe the author felt that an American presence was needed to "connect" his American readers to a Soviet conflict. But the "hot-to-trot" seductiveness of Tanya dishonors the sacrifices of Zaitsev's real women snipers, who had no time for bed-hopping antics. And the "romantic" scenes were simply unbelievable -- (lovemaking after crawling through the muck of a sewer? after lying in wait for hours in the freezing snow?)-- and so excruciatingly clumsily written that this reader was actually embarrassed for the characters. Moreover, the sexual situations undermine the real Tanya's war record: she was already a partisan and sniper before meeting Zaitsev, and scored some 81 kills in avenging her family.Read more ›
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
WAR OF THE RATS is a superb novel of combat. Combat in a theater of World War II that most Americans, dismally familiar only with the fighting role of the US in the Pacific and Europe, know little about - the Russian Front. Specifically, in this book, the Battle of Stalingrad at the end of 1942.
Chief Master Sergeant Vasily Zaitsev ("The Hare") is an expert sniper in the 62nd Army, that force of the Red Army desperately maintaining a toehold in Stalingrad, under siege by the German 6th Army. Zaitsev is so good at his job that he is ordered to establish a sniper school. One of his students is Tania Chernova, an American woman of Russian descent fighting to avenge the execution of her grandparents at the hands of the Nazis. The graduates of The Hare's training become so proficient at killing Germans that the morale of the 6th Army's front-line troops is seriously threatened. Zaitsev becomes a Red Army hero and a winner of the Order of Lenin. As a counter, the Reich's most expert sniper, SS Colonel Heinz Thorvald ("The Headmaster"), is flown from Germany into the Stalingrad battle. His orders - to find and kill The Hare.
There is no superlative too extravagant to describe this book. At 470 pages in paperback, I absorbed it at one sitting on a flight from Washington, DC to Los Angeles. Zaitsev, Chernova and Thorvald were all actual combatants in Stalingrad. Their roles, as well as the movements of both the German and Russian forces in the battle as a whole, are facts lifted from historical sources researched by the author, David Robbins. The insight Robbins gives the reader into the skills and training of the military sniper is absolutely riveting. The action is gritty and realistic. The characters are finely drawn.
One measure of a novel's excellence is its ability to inspire the reader to delve further into the subject. I've just added to my Amazon.com Wish List a history of the Stalingrad siege.
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Format: Hardcover
I enjoy Historical Fiction and David L.Robbins is very good at crafting a tale around History's Events. In, "War Of The Rats", he recounts the, "Duel", between Russia's Chief Master Sergeant Vasily Zaitsev, and Germany's Colonel Heinz Thornvold, as they played out their sniper's match and starred in the propaganda battles their countries staged, all in the wreckage of Stalingrad. I also enjoyed the alternative view of war that the Author related. The tens of thousands do not fight this particular violence of war, nor do the millions engage in it. These are very personal acts of killing. While it is one individual with a single rifle, the area that can be controlled through the terror their unique talents allow is an amazing study in Human endurance.
Historical Fiction can be tricky as it is hard to set rules for how closely the Author must follow the facts as he or she knows them. There is no excuse for knowingly writing a story that is error prone and excuse it as fiction, and then call it History when it is easily documented. I do not believe the Author is guilty of this. I do think that any attempt to document all facts surrounding the exploits of a Soviet War Hero as chronicled by their Wartime propaganda mentality is virtually impossible. This is the same military mindset that had the submarine Kurst hitting a 50 year old floating mine, and had those on board alive for days when in fact they had died horrible deaths. This latter event was in peacetime, and still pride required lies that were absurd. During a war, facts often are changed, minimilized or embellished. The management of facts is a major part of any war effort.
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