Tag Archives: marines

A very good Viet Nam War novel

I finished another book over the weekend that is worth mentioning.

“Matterhorn; A Novel of the Viet Nam War” by Karl Marlantes is just that. It is a very gritty account of a Marine company in combat in 1969. Marlantes wastes no ink on any subtleties or side plots. From the very first page, he places the reader into the “bush,” with the main character, a brand new second lieutenant who is trying to figure out his job while simultaneously trying to keep from getting killed. The reader lives with the Marine company and experiences the mud, the sweat and the fear. The story is involved and detailed.

Marlantes brings out all the absurdities of war — good officers and bad; expert Marines and inept; courage and stupidity; blacks and whites. The story reminds me a lot of “Fields of Fire” by James Webb; “The 13th Valley” by John del Vecchio; and “Better Times Than These” by Winston Groom.

This is not a “chick book” by any stretch of the imagination. Mrs. Poolman would have no interest. However, if you like military fiction, especially of the Viet Nam era, this is a must-read.

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Slow weekend and “The Pacific”

We had a semi-slow weekend. Saturday consisted of going out to lunch and running errands. Writer Princess, SIL and a couple of their friends came over in the late afternoon to hang by the pool. We made sandwiches for dinner and watched a movie. Sunday wasn’t any more exciting with about a ton of laundry. I also cleaned up our home office, which has been a mess ever since we just dumped a bunch of stuff in there during our “home improvement” project last winter.  We have more company coming next weekend (Mrs. Poolman’s side of the family),  and I needed to make at least enough room for a blow-up mattress.

I did finish a book I had been reading, “The Pacific” by Hugh Ambrose. This is he companion book to the HBO mini-series (which I have not seen). It is also intended to complement Band of Brothers by providing the viewpoint from the Pacific campaign. The author is the son of historian and author of “Band of Brothers,” the late Stephen Ambrose. Like “Band of Brothers,” “The Pacific” is non-fiction.

I have to confess I was somewhat disappointed. As much as I am a military history geek, I still did not feel myself being pulled into the story. The book follows the lives of four Marines and one naval aviator through World War II in the Pacific Theater. It simply was not as compelling as its antecedent, “Band of Brothers.” In BoB, the story followed one group of paratroopers from their initial training to VE Day. While some of the characters came and went, there was one consistent thread of continuity. In “The Pacific,” however, the four characters each had their own separate stories. Occasionally, those story lines would touch another, but for the most part, they ran on different tracks.

I think Ambrose was further hindered by the fact that only one of those five main characters is still alive. On the other hand, his father was able to personally interview his primary characters in “Band of Brothers.” That book was published in 1992 when many WWII veterans were still alive. That gave “Band of Brothers” a closer, more intimate relationship between the reader and the characters. Hugh Ambrose worked mostly off of second sources, such as diaries and letters. The result is the characters are a little more distant and less compelling to the reader.

If you are a World War II history geek, you would enjoy “The Pacific.” If not, I’d give it a “pass.”