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A Big, Powerful Saga Of Men In Combat, Written Over The Course Of Thirty Five Years By A Highly Decorated Vietnam VeteranIntense, Powerful, And Compelling, Matterhorn Is An Epic War Novel In The Tradition Of Norman Mailer S The Naked And The Dead And James Jones S The Thin Red Line It Is The Timeless Story Of A Young Marine Lieutenant, Waino Mellas, And His Comrades In Bravo Company, Who Are Dropped Into The Mountain Jungle Of Vietnam As Boys And Forced To Fight Their Way Into Manhood Standing In Their Way Are Not Merely The North Vietnamese But Also Monsoon Rain And Mud, Leeches And Tigers, Disease And Malnutrition Almost As Daunting, It Turns Out, Are The Obstacles They Discover Between Each Other Racial Tension, Competing Ambitions, And Duplicitous Superior Officers But When The Company Finds Itself Surrounded And Outnumbered By A Massive Enemy Regiment, The Marines Are Thrust Into The Raw And All Consuming Terror Of Combat The Experience Will Change Them ForeverWritten Over The Course Of Thirty Years By A Highly Decorated Vietnam Veteran, Matterhorn Is A Visceral And Spellbinding Novel About What It Is Like To Be A Young Man At War It Is An Unforgettable Novel That Transforms The Tragedy Of Vietnam Into A Powerful And Universal Story Of Courage, Camaraderie, And Sacrifice A Parable Not Only Of The War In Vietnam But Of All War, And A Testament To The Redemptive Power Of LiteratureA Graduate Of Yale University And A Rhodes Scholar At Oxford University, Karl Marlantes Served As A Marine In Vietnam, Where He Was Awarded The Navy Cross, The Bronze Star, Two Navy Commendation Medals For Valor, Two Purple Hearts, And Ten Air Medals This Is His First Novel He Lives In Rural Washington State Like many Americans these days, I have no direct experience of war, so reading books like this one is hopefully the closest I ll get to knowing what it s like.As far as I can tell, war is the horrific dark antithesis to civilization The central aim of what men have done since they squirmed out of a cave and lit a fire has been to make life longer, easier, and comfortable for themselves Granted, they often did this at the expense of others women, differently hued men, etc , but better living did seem to be the general thrust They invented medicines and conveniences and fun stuff like ice cream and motorcycles, and by the 1960s the life span and physical comfort of most Americans was a wonder for the ages Sure, there were problems racial and economic inequality and what have you but if you take the long view and compare it to humanity s historical lot, things were overall pretty damn sweet most people slept indoors, ate nutritious meals, received medical care and education, and listened to terrific songs playing all the time on the radio Cars and girls looked great and fashion was pretty fine Given all this, it s hard to understand why this basically comfortable society sent its boys off to die horribly in an inhospitable jungle on the other side of the world, for no real reason that I or most other people can see Matterhorn conveys the senselessness and brutality of this perhaps especially senseless and brutal war From the beginning, my mouth just hung open as I struggled to understand why we ever did this and then, as I shook myself back to the present, why we are still doing this, and when that got too hard to think about, abstractly, why we have always done this The novel is excruciating, painful, and close to nihilistic it s not really a spoiler to reveal here that nearly every sympathetic character dies But it s not ultimately a nihilistic book, or at least I don t think it quite is, even though it never wraps things up with false comfort or any pleasant answers I think ultimately Matterhorn was about retaining your humanity in a relentlessly bleak and unjust and monstrous world, or maybe it wasn t Maybe it was about losing your humanity but continuing to exist, or not, amid all that meaningless trauma and loss and fear Or maybe it was a recognition of what humanity is yes it s penicillin and motorcycles and ice cream and Otis Redding and Plymouth Barracudas and cat eye makeup and bravery that will make a man die out of love for his friends, but it s also teenagers murdering and maiming each other, being destroyed for nothing when they should be at home with their girlfriends where they belong, because war actually isn t the dark side of civilization, but is instead its inevitable result.Anyway, yeah, kind of a downer I actually really dragged my feet through the first two hundred pages because it wasn t the kind of book I d for some reason gotten the impression that it was I was expecting something High End and Literary with Exquisite Prose, and it took me awhile to realize I was reading a War Novel Matterhorn is not that high falutin lyrical Vietnam Book Prize Bait maybe Tree of Smoke is I wouldn t know, not having read it the writing here does have its moments but is basically workmanlike, which is to say it definitely gets the job done The landscapes and military details are great the characters, less so But whatever, you don t read Matterhorn for its breathtakingly stylish sentences or nuanced writerly tricks you read it to find out what it was like to be a marine fighting in Vietnam, and while of course I have no way of knowing if it s accurate, it s definitely convincing Some parts I felt were successful than others the handling of race relations felt a bit strained and wooden at times, while the battle scenes and descriptions of day to day life were great, and the experience of all these young men being deprived of the company of women just as they became adults was so visceral and poignant that it almost makes me misty eyed to think of it What is this world where power hungry, cynical older men send young virgins off to rot and be blown to pieces on some hill in a country none of them ever would ve heard of otherwise Ugh Jesus Well, I don t know how to answer that, and I wouldn t say I enjoyed this book, but I m glad I read it and I m really glad Karl Marlantes lived to write it I feel like I understand slightly about war now than I did before, which is good even though it makes me feel really despairing and sad. Just below the grim tranquillity Mellas had learned to display, he cursed with boiling intensity the ambitious men who used him and his troops to further their careers He cursed the air wing for not trying to get any choppers in through the clouds He cursed the diplomats arguing about round and square tables He cursed the South Vietnamese making money off the black market He cursed the people back home gorging themselves in front of their televisions Then he cursed God Then there was no one else to blame and he cursed himself for thinking God would give a shit.2nd Lieutenant Mellas, an Ivy League graduate, finds himself in Vietnam commanding a platoon The officers have been thinned out so severely that the Company Commander is a 1st Lieutenant and the Executive Officer is a 2nd Lieutenant Both positions are normally held by much senior officers He has Corporals that have survived a couple of tours in the jungle and at the tender age of 19 are now crusty veterans He is 22 and being asked to fight a war with babies in fatigues He worships bush Marines decked out with non regulation mustaches, dreadlocks, and boots so scuffed they are white His head is spinning with desires for medals and proving his courage under fire He is beset by doubts about his abilities, and yet wants to do than just survive He wants to be successful The Author receiving his Bronze StarAs the chapters flip by we really get to see Mellas evolve as a person As he sheds his state side training and becomes a real marine leader I actually started to like him More important his men started to respect him As he experiences combat and loses men he starts to understand the politics of the war That change from being concerned about his own future to understanding the futility of the circumstances in Vietnam is a shattering experience for him Colonel Mulvaney his Regimental Commander expresses his own jaded views about the warAmerica uses us like whores When it wants a good fuck it pours in the money and we give it a moment of glory Then when it s over, it sneaks out the back door and pretends it doesn t know who we are Yeah we are whores, he continued, almost to himself now I admit it But we re good ones We re good at fucking We like our work So the customer gets ashamed afterward So hypocrisy s always been part of the profession We know that But this time the customer doesn t want to fuck He wants to play horsy and come in through the back door And he s riding us around the room with a fucking bridle and whip and spurs Mulvaney shook his head We ain t good at that It turns our stomach And it s destroying us The cynicism was certainly understandable when success is measured in body counts, blood trails, and probable kills They would capture ground and then pull out to let the NVA move back in just so they would have a chance to kill enemy combatants It was really a fucked up way to run a warJust tell me where the gold is Gold Yes, the gold, the fucking gold, or the oil, or uranium Something Jesus Christ, something out there for us to be here Just anything, then I d understand it Just some fucking gold so it all makes senseMarine 1967 running under enemy fire The tension between the splibs black combatants and the chucks white combatants usually became a bigger issue during down times between combat missions Marlantes, I felt, told both sides of the race issue with an even hand He even took us into the decision making sessions of the officers further up the chain, giving the reader a view of the pressures they were receiving and the unorthodox ways they were forced to measure success Objectives were not clear even higher up the chain of command The pain, the misery, the waste that are endemic in all wars was even harder to withstand in Vietnam.Helicopters were the life blood of this war and when they couldn t fly for several days food, water, and ammunition became scarce and boys were left to die It was hard at times for me to read about the circumstances and the unrealistic expectations we had for combat troops in Vietnam coupled with the haphazard supply lines we had in place to give them the basics of what they needed to even do their job At one point in time the troops go eight days without food and are expected to withstand an enemy assault Redefining victory in Vietnam was a theme of this novel The men who fought in this war deserve our gratitude and our apology They were not treated with the honor and the dignity befitting warriors returning from a war that many worked very hard to avoid and were frankly smart to do so The combat soldiers in Vietnam could not win the war They could not win battles like the Battle of Normandy or the Battle of the Bulge They did not return to America knowing that they made the world a safer place They took the same risks as the soldiers of world war two with so much less to be gainedVictory in combat is like sex with a prostitute For a moment you forget everything in the sudden physical rush, but then you have to pay your money to the woman showing you the door You see the dirt on the walls and your sorry image in the mirror Marlantes took thirty years to write this novel He was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for valor, two Purple Hearts, and ten air medals, so he wasn t in the rear somewhere as part of the supply train I feel like I know much, much about the Vietnam war than what I have gleaned from other novels or histories Marlantes takes you into the elephant grass, with leeches hanging from your legs, and jungle rot oozing pus from the cuts on your hands If you didn t question our objectives in Vietnam and recently our objectives in Afghanistan and Iraq you will after reading this book We have to know that when we are sacrificing our kids that it is for the right reasons They are not and never should be just numbers on a board Highly Recommended The Author in VietnamIf you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit also have a Facebook blogger page at Boot camp did not make us killers, it was just a f finishing school Grim Heartbreaking There were sections of this book that, honest to God, were difficult to read If you cannot read war novels, don t even pick it up If you are made uncomfortable by vivid descriptions of suffering and of overwhelming human endurance, do not read this book If out of touch and passionless bureaucratic polices that result in needless hurt anger you, then stay far away If brilliantly illustrated characterizations of incompetent, careerist, wannabe politician, couldn t lead a trip to the zoo overpaid and over privileged senior governmental leaders makes you want to drop off the grid and go live in a cabin in the woods well, you get the point This book inspires strong emotion.With imagery that reminds me of the writing of Peter Matthiessen, and with brutally honest and realistically complex characterizations that would make Jonathan Franzen proud, author Karl Marlantes has crafted a fictional novel that breathes with life and that tells the good, the bad, and the ugly of a difficult time Transcending simply a war novel about Vietnam, Marlantes lucidly describes how the military, and the war itself, shaped our society Matterhorn deals with race relations, class distinctions and the relationship a citizen has with his government in a stirring, but painfully sublime morality play that realistically communicates a time and place but, than that, paints a striking, and often uncomplimentary, portrait of who we are.Himself a decorated Vietnam veteran Marine, Marlantes has also illustrated a description of his service that, though it objectively deals with the governmental and bureaucratic failings of the Corps, also offers a glimpse into what it means to be semper fidelis though he states succinctly that a true understanding is unattainable for the rest of us I have an uncle who served two tours of duty in Vietnam as a Marine, very proud of him, and I have than once been impressed by the Marines. Rating 5 of five, but it deserves sixNewly Tarted Up Review Iwellhonestly, I have no idea what word to use to describe how I feel about MATTERHORN by Karl Marlantes It s a superlative book, no adjectives need apply I gave it five stars because that s the scalebut it deserves six.Moved to my blog.