An incredible publishing storywritten over the course of thirty years by a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, a New York Times best seller for sixteen weeks, a National Indie Next and a USA Today best sellerMatterhorn has been hailed as a brilliant account of war (New York Times Book Review).Read more...
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- What It Is Like to Go to War
An incredible publishing storywritten over the course of thirty years by a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, a New York Times best seller for sixteen weeks, a National Indie Next and a USA Today best sellerMatterhorn has been hailed as a brilliant account of war (New York Times Book Review). Now out in paperback, Matterhorn is an epic war novel in the tradition of Norman Mailers The Naked and the Dead and James Joness 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 forever.
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 literature.
A haunting vision of the Vietnam War
First-time author Karl Marlantes tackles some tough subjects—racism among the troops, for one—in his Vietnam novel, Matterhorn.What makes this novel so irresistible is Marlantes’ skill at peeling away the many layers of truth in combat.
Matterhorn is one of those countless hills in Vietnam that makes young men’s lives so cheap. In this case, it’s the Marines of Bravo Company and the hardened NVA (North Vietnamese Army) soldiers. The story revolves around a young Marine lieutenant, Waino Mellas, who must quickly learn the difference between officer candidate school and the reality of life in the bush. Lt. Mellas tries to straddle the line between being “one of the guys” and a platoon commander. This division between the troops and a low-ranking officer like Mellas (who is only a few years older than his men) can become too vague if he is overly friendly. In combat, that can be disastrous.
The delicate balance between life and death resonates throughout Matterhorn, as it does in real combat. What is so fresh and fascinating about this novel is Marlantes’ depiction of the specific activities and conflicting motivations that take place in a war zone. For instance, many of the officers (including Lt. Mellas) want recognition by those in command above them. And how, aside from concrete evidence of a clear victory, is this accomplished? With inflated enemy kill counts, something that was commonplace in the Vietnam War. Marlantes also shows the nature of life in the bush for these grunts, the long hours spent contemplating the imminent sudden bursts of horror and loss.
One can only hope that the size of this amazing novel (nearly 600 pages) doesn’t intimidate potential readers, because it is one of those rare books that will never leave their minds. Great novels are underscored by human drama, and Marlantes’ depiction of men under stress—no matter what race or background—is searing and complex. Matterhorn will not only take its place on the top shelf of war fiction, it’s going to knock a few books off. It’s that good.
Michael Lee was a Marine, wounded during the 77-day siege of Khe Sanh.