Tuesday, April 27, 2010

MATTERHORN by Karl Marlantes

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I am not a fan of war novels. There are not the type of book I generally seek out. When this hefty tome landed on my doorstep, I thought it was going to be very hard to get through.  I was wrong.

MATTERHORN follows newbie Lieutenant Waino Mellas as he begans his tour in Vietnam with Bravo Company.  Bravo Company is charged with occupying a large hill and leveling it out to make a landing zone and command post.  They name this desolate place Matterhorn. The book follows Matterhorn out into the jungle as they make an ill-fated journay to another location. The Company is eventually ordered back to Matterhorn where they must engage in the fight of their lives.

In the beginning, I struggled with all of the military jargon and the large number of characters. I couldn't keep it all straight and had to rely heavily on Marlantes' charts and glossary. About 100 pages in, however, I was hooked. I could not put this book down. Marlantes has a real skill in making the reader feel as if he/she is really there with the Marines.  I wanted to cry along with them as they were beaten down physically and emotionally. And I too felt their frustration when orders came down that didn't seem to make any sense from a military viewpoint but were instead largely political. I marveled at just how much these men went through and wondered how anyone could survive it intact. Marlantes manages to cover a lot a ground. Not only does he offer a realistic depiction of what it was like for these men in the jungles of Vietnam but he also reveals the political aspects of war and their effects on the men who carry out the orders.  Marlantes reminds us just how young these men were and how much they were asked to do. He also brings out the race conflict present within the military which I had never really thought about before.  The main character, Mellas, is both a noble and extremely flawed individual.  The reader feels frustrated and contempuous of him at times while at others rooting and hoping for him to survive and overcome.

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended. A very powerful, gripping and eye-opening book. Once I got into it, I raced to the end.  Even at almost 600 pages, I think there was much more story to tell. This book combines provides a great deal of action while never losing the human element.  I think most readers will find much to like here.


Diane said...

I can't wait 4 your review AMy. This is on my wish list.

Bookfool said...

Hey Amy,

Would you be willing to trade your ARC of Matterhorn for a couple of board books I reviewed, earlier this year? I have no reason to keep Catch Picasso's Rooster or Tickle Tut's Toes. Write me at the gmail address in my sidebar if you'd like to swap.