Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I was in the shit. Karl Marlantes put me there.
Matterhorn is a deep and penetrating look within the Vietnam War. It's the sort of horribly realistic novel that can only be reproduced by the survivor of an atrocity.
Highly decorated Vietnam War veteran Karl Marlantes had been at work on this book since the war ended. If you ever need an example of an artistic project into which the artist has poured his blood, sweat and tears, you can point to Matterhorn.
The book follows 2nd Lieutenant Mellas, a squeaky clean Ivy League kid who signs up and intentionally gets himself stuck in with the grunts, the high school flunkies who make up the front line fodder. Mellas wants to be one of the boys. He also secretly longs for medals and promotion. His desires and inexperience could get him killed. It could get a lot of boys killed and the boys don't like that.
Matterhorn is not all doom and gloom from beginning to end. I doubt I would've finished it if it were. No, Marlantes does an excellent job in building the tension. He starts things off light. There is levity through out in its proper place. Then the trouble is escalated. The tension is tightened. You feel the frustration, elation, despair...hope.
I hesitated to read this. After all, wasn't it enough that I'd seen Platoon and Full Metal Jacket? Vietnam is a sad chapter in history. Did I really want to revisit it? However, word on the street was persistent: this is great, don't miss this. I'm glad I didn't give it a miss. And neither should you.
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