by Karl Marlantes, published by Atlantic Monthly Press and El León Literary Arts
Karl Marlantes has written a firsthand account of the trials and tribulations of Marine Second Lieutenant Waino Mellas and his comrades of Bravo Company, who fought in the jungles in the northern area of South Vietnam in 1969. The novel is graphic and describes how the men managed to survive, fight and die in this god-forsaken place. Their only lifelines are their radios and the helicopters that often flew through miserable weather and enemy fire to bring them food, supplies, ammo and, most important of all, mail from friends and loved ones. These helicopters also brought reinforcements and evacuated their wounded and dead.
William Tecumseh Sherman, of Civil War fame, said in an 1879 speech that “War is Hell.” The author has illustrated that by giving the reader one of the most vivid accounts of what it was like to conduct combat operations in such an environment. He allows the reader to feel the men’s frustration at having to occupy a hill (Matterhorn) fortify it, abandon it and have to fight to take it back from the North Vietnamese. You follow them as they slough through rain, mud and rivers and hack their way through dense jungle, while on combat patrols and dangerous missions. Marlantes allows the reader to experience Bravo Company’s adrenaline in numerous firefights. Through it all, the goal of all these Marines is survival and to return home.
The author is a highly decorated Marine veteran of Vietnam. He writes from firsthand experience, having served in this area while a young officer. His description allows the reader to understand what it is like for young men at war, their fear of facing the enemy for the first time, the vivid picture of fighting in all its totality, the bonding of the Marines and the sorrow over losing ones’ friends. This book was written over the course of 30 years, and the author, in an interview in Publishers Weekly (1/25/2010), described his epic struggles to get it published. Writing the book was cathartic for the author, allowing him to cope with the wounds of combat. Atlantic Monthly Press is to be commended for publishing this work.