Month: April 2014
The Conflict that was a War: In Vietnam and at Home by Jim B. Money and 19 Vietnam Veterans
To say that this book has heart is an understatement. Nineteen veterans who served in Vietnam between 1965 and 1972 poured their personal stories on the page to tell those of us who never experienced the Vietnam War what it’s been like to fight it for more than 40 years – first in ‘Nam and then at home. One cannot read this book without being touched by the veterans’ unforgettable tales of devastation and facing unspeakable horrors that few ever experience. Their thoughts, emotions, and insights are laid bare for all of us to read.
Because of the bitter divisiveness and controversy of the war (not a conflict) and the trauma inflicted on those who survived Vietnam and returned home to a frigid reception, their stories too long were untold. No longer. These authors’ unvarnished and frank narratives pull no punches in the faces of the faint of heart, the easily offended, or those who treated the Vietnam veterans with contempt.
Regardless of one’s view of the Vietnam War, these accounts are critical to understanding what really happened and how those involved were affected. One must remember and learn from a war that many wanted to forget so that the past is never repeated. These soldiers’ stories help preserve the legacy of the war, from the Band of Brothers to the Agent Orange and anti-war protests. Whether one agrees with what has been written is not as important as reading the book to understand the fall out of a conflict in Vietnam and at home that, in some ways, is still being fought by those who remain.
The book is written from the unique perspectives of veterans who served in different branches of the U.S. Military across South Vietnam at the height of the war. If you’re the child or descendant of a Vietnam veteran and want to know but are afraid to ask why they won’t or can’t talk about the war, read this book. It may be the closest you’ll get to talking about Vietnam with your own parent or grandparent.
As the son of a Vietnam veteran, I am proud of these veterans for having the courage to share stories that they have held inside for decades. I give this book five (5) stars and highly recommend it to active military, veterans, their families, and anyone interested in the learning more about the Vietnam War.
The Conflict that was a War is now available at:
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
As a fan of Khaled Hosseini’s books, I jumped at the chance to read his latest novel. The author once again delivered a gem of a book with vignettes woven into a complex tapestry of the nation and culture that is Afghanistan. Hosseini has arguably done more than any other author redefining contemporary Afghanistan beyond the caricature of a tragic, war-torn mess. His previous bestsellers, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, paint a colorful portrait of a haunting land misunderstood by many.
His latest is a departure from his tried-and-true formula of writing epic stories that bring to life the rich culture and heritage of the Afghan people. Set in far-flung locales from California to France and Greece, And the Mountains Echoed takes readers to new places and realities. Although the author tried to depict life in the United States and Europe, he merely whetted my appetite to read more about Afghanistan. His homeland is where his pen spills mastery onto the page.
Hosseini detoured from his almost-mythical stories of Afghans who persevered under the most difficult of circumstances toward the frailty and flaws of human nature. And the Mountains Echoed offers more shades of gray than its predecessors. The moral hazards and ambiguity in his characters come to life in fateful decisions that lead to pay-off or penance as their choices affect others whose lives they touch…and their own. The morality tale the author spins may leave readers used to rooting for his typically heroic figures wanting. Those expecting this book to be another Afghan epic may be disappointed.
I laud Hosseini for departing from his previous works and breaking new ground. Though I wished at times while reading the book that it was more like what he is best known for, I appreciated his determination to write something different. It adds to his standing as one of today’s best writers of historical fiction. If you’re a fan of his books, you can’t go wrong once you understand that this novel is different from the rest. I give And the Mountains Echoed four stars and recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.
And the Mountains Echoed is now available at:
Sand Omnibus by Hugh Howey
After the runaway success of his “Silo Saga” series, Hugh Howey must have been under pressure of sand-dune proportions to come up with a worthy follow-up to his blockbuster. That his new, five-story “Sand” omnibus comes on the heels of the last “Silo Saga” installment was a stroke of marketing genius by Howey. He put the proverbial glassblower in the oven while it’s hot by releasing another series sure to bask in the glow of the “Silo Saga.”
Therein lies the weakness in the new “Sand” series – it feels rushed and reads like a vague retelling of the author’s other works. The “Sand Omnibus” comes off as an above-surface version of the silo world introduced in Wool. Although the “Sand” series has some notable distinctions from the “Silo Saga,” the similarities are too obvious to ignore. Both are set in post-apocalyptic versions of what was once the United States, featuring a changed environment created long ago by self-destructive ancestors. Ageless technology from a bygone era keeps survivors alive in hostile landscapes. Both series feature several protagonists’ points of view that jump from character to character as the storyline progresses. The reality of both worlds shatters when two worlds collide. What was new and refreshing in the “Silo Saga” leaves the reader with a “Sand” aftertaste like grit in one’s teeth.
The omnibus does break some new ground for Howey. His imaginative, “Max Max”-style take on how people adapt to living on the surface and sand diving in a desert world is fuel for the imagination. He delves deeper into human relationships as told through a dysfunctional family almost torn apart by the sands of time. The author’s portrayal of love, loyalty, and camaraderie among family and friends is uneven but a gripping story. His depictions of humans using vibrating dive suits to move through sand like water seems unique in literature, as are other adaptive technologies harnessed by post-apocalyptic humanity.
Although the “Sand Omnibus” is well written, its storyline and pace suggests that the author should have slowed down and spent more time tightening the plot to avoid questionable coincidences and tidy conclusions. Had the series not been published in the aftermath of the ground-breaking “Silo Saga,” it might have elicited a better response. I give the book four stars and recommend it to anyone who enjoys dystopian science fiction.
Sand Omnibus is now available at: