Jan 262011

A series of related stories about the life of U.S. soldiers trying to get by during the grind of the Vietnam War.  O’Brien wavers across the line between autobiographical non-fiction and pure fiction partly as a tool, I think, to capture the war’s surrealism: dense jungle, extreme heat, young men face to face with unpredictable death, and the camaraderie that comes when living with a small group trapped in a senseless situation.  My one complaint is the book, while easy enough to read, felt too much like a self-consciously highly stylized novel.  A more effective book on the randomness with which death comes to soldiers is The Good Soldiers by David Finkel about one company’s experience over one year in Iraq.

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