dharmagirl, January 6, 2013 (view all comments by dharmagirl)
I received this book last year from Powell's as one of their Indiespensible books and it sat on by bookshelf until just recently, when our lunchtime bookclub voted for it as our January read. Up until then, I was afraid to read it, thinking it would be hard to read about the Vietnam war, in part because my dad was there and of course because war itself is such a scary topic (the actual being there... no idea how soldiers do it).
As soon as I started reading, I was immediately pulled into the story and eventually could not put the book down, even though it's a very long book (it doesn't read like a long book though - it's not hard to read at all). I loved how the story focused mainly on one character, but also gave us insightful glimpses into so many characters along the way. The book doesn't shy away from hard topics - like racism and classism (if you can call it that) and like many great books, it does not offer any easy answers to the situations characters find themselves in. I also loved how the main character Mellas evolved as the story unfolds - he starts out pretty self-centered and power hungry, only to see those things melt away in importance as he fights along side the other Marines. The author takes you right into the experiences of these characters - what they feel like, what their bodies are going through, how they all handle their fears. After reading the book, I still have no idea how someone manages to put themselves through such an experience without going insane.
I will be thinking about this book for a while, thinking about it and the characters for some time, thinking about the shadow and how these characters showed their humanity (or maybe humanness). I'll be talking to my dad too, trying to understand what happened to him and how he dealt with his experience. And I'll be reading Karl's other work, that's for sure.
Christopher Morrow, Bookseller, January 20, 2012 (view all comments by Christopher Morrow, Bookseller)
This was my favorite book of 2011 and is probably the best war novel that I've ever read. I'm an Army Vietnam vet, and even though I was not out fighting in the jungle, this book brought back many memories, positive and negative, about my time in a war zone. I feel blessed to have been able to chat for 15 minutes with Karl Marlantes at a book event in Florida last year. The book and our conversation made my year.
Jackie Hollis, January 28, 2011 (view all comments by Jackie Hollis)
This book overlapped from 2010 to 2011. Because it was such a big book (and not just in the number of pages). Page by page, Karl Marlantes makes you feel: the tedium, the terror, the loss, the miserable conditions, the anger, the futuility and the transformation of Lieutenant Mellas. My husband immediately began reading it when I finished it because of the way I muttered to myself through out reading it, my visceral reactions to what was on the page. For anyone who wants to know, just the smallest bit of what it must have been like for these Marines in Vietnam: READ. THIS. BOOK.
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Sharon M. Leon, January 19, 2011 (view all comments by Sharon M. Leon)
I'm not drawn to war stories, but Matterhorn came courtesy of my Indiespensible subscription and I loved it -- felt the fear, the stress, the physical hardship, every minute of it.
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Geraldine Randles, January 15, 2011 (view all comments by Geraldine Randles)
My uncle died fighting in Viet Nam. He volunteered to join the Army as a way to help his family, to give himself a respectable life. Like his older brother; my father. He also volunteered to go to Viet Nam. I was only 8 years old. He was staying with us, we were stationed on Treasure Island (Dad was a Navy man). I remember the intensity of the conversations between my father and his younger brother. I can still hear the pleading in my father's voice, "but you don't have to go, you have 3 children, you can get out of going over there." My uncle responded in such a quiet voice, "I want to go...I want to go." Four months later, my uncle was dead. He was 25 years old. Killed in Viet Nam while on patrol. His unit was ambushed. I cried the night Karl Marlantes visited Powell's. I had him sign the book in memory of my uncle, Terence Fedor. And still, while asking for this, I cried. I am 50 years old.
And then I read the book. It was real and amzing and horrible and fantastic. Best of all, it was very well written.
Karl Marlantes brought the war in Viet Nam to me in away that was missing. And he helped me along the way.
I recognize this is not a critique of his book. I could do that very well, too. But, that is not really why we read, is it? It isn't for me. Karl Marlantes...he is why we read. IT is that good.
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Karl Marlantes's Matterhorn is visceral, raw, and gripping; an exceptionally moving and insightful novel of young men at war. If you love Bao Ninh and Tim O'Brien, you can't fail to be moved by this immensely compelling foray into the leech- and tiger-haunted jungles of Vietnam.
by Chris Faatz
Powerful. Words melt away, immersing me into a predator-infested jungle. Soon to be a classic.
Matterhorn is not only the best novel yet written about the Vietnam War, it's one of the best written by any American in recent memory. Engrossing, compelling, and absolutely devastating. No wonder it took 30 years to write.
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Thirty years in the making, Marlantes's epic debut is a dense, vivid narrative spanning many months in the lives of American troops in Vietnam as they trudge across enemy lines, encountering danger from opposing forces as well as on their home turf. Marine lieutenant and platoon commander Waino Mellas is braving a 13-month tour in Quang-Tri province, where he is assigned to a fire-support base and befriends Hawke, older at 22; both learn about life, loss, and the horrors of war. Jungle rot, leeches dropping from tree branches, malnourishment, drenching monsoons, mudslides, exposure to Agent Orange, and wild animals wreak havoc as brigade members face punishing combat and grapple with bitterness, rage, disease, alcoholism, and hubris. A decorated Vietnam veteran, the author clearly understands his playing field (including military jargon that can get lost in translation), and by examining both the internal and external struggles of the battalion, he brings a long, torturous war back to life with realistic characters and authentic, thrilling combat sequences. Marlantes's debut may be daunting in length, but it remains a grand, distinctive accomplishment." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[T]he Vietnam novel has come of age, and this is a worthy addition to the genre....An engrossing chronicle of men at war."
by Library Journal (starred review),
"The battle scenes, at which the author excels, are frequent, brutal, and viscerally energetic, and the skillfully rendered dialog reveals a bunch of strangers attempting to communicate in life-defeating circumstances. In the end, there are no real victors....Obviously not a brief, cheery read, this is a major work that will be a valuable addition to any permanent collection."
by Dan Rather,
"Matterhorn is one of the most powerful and moving novels about combat, the Vietnam War, and war in general that I have ever read."
by Christina Robb, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist,
"I have never read a war novel, outside of War and Peace, that created such a living, breathing hologram of all sides of any war."
by USA Today,
“Visceral...Evocative...We feel the Marines exhaustion as they dig gun pits, carry dead and wounded comrades, and nearly die from hunger....We hear the scream of the M-16s, the thunk of mortar shells, the hammering of AK-47s and the crack of bullets. We smell the stink of fear, blood and unwashed bodies....[Marlantes] pitches us into a harrowing narrative we wont soon forget.”
“I've laughed at Catch-22 and wept at The Thin Red Line, but Ive never encountered a war novel as stark, honest and wrenching as Matterhorn....By turns, this book horrified me, crushed me and beat me up, but I found it nearly impossible to stop reading. More than any living American novelist I've read, Marlantes made me feel what I already must have known: that war is worse than hell.”
A former Army Captains gripping portrait of a fighting division holding a remote outpost in Afghanistan reminiscent of Apocalypse Now, The Yellow Birds, and Matterhorn
There were many valleys in the mountains of Afghanistan, and most were hard places where people died hard deaths. But there was only one Valley. Black didnt even know its proper name. But he knew about the Valley. It was the farthest, and the hardest, and the worst. It lay deeper and higher in the mountains than any other place Americans had ventured. You had to travel through a network of interlinked valleys, past all the other remote American outposts, just to get to its mouth. Stories circulated periodically, tales of land claimed and fought for, or lost and overrun, new attempts made or turned back, outposts abandoned and reclaimed. They were impossible to verify. Everything about the Valley was myth and rumor.
The strung-out platoon Black finds after traveling deep into the heart of the Valley, and the illumination of the dark secrets accumulated during month after month fighting and dying in defense of an indefensible piece of land, provide a shattering portrait of men at war.
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