Title: Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War
Author: Karl Marlantes
As a rule, I don't like war stories. Too much fighting, too much swearing, too much violence. And there was a lot of fighting, swearing and violence in Matterhorn. I'd heard great things about the audiorecording of the novel (Bronson Pinchot of Perfect Strangers fame won some big award for best narration of last year), so I stuck it out when I felt like throwing in the towel. The recording is about 20 hours long, and even 15 hours into listening, I wasn't entirely sure I was going to finish the story. But eventually I grew to really care about Lieutenant Waino Mellus. I wanted to see if he was going to die. At first, I didn't think it was possible for Marlantes to kill him off, but as everyone around Mellus succumbed to the jungle (one got eaten by a tiger!) or the Viet-Cong, I started to think it might not be possible for Mellus to get back to civilization alive, or at least get back undamaged. Once I started to love and understand and root for Mellus, I was terrified that he would die. There were many days when I flew down I-15 with tears streaming down my face because someone had met a bad end or because I was scared for the characters. Although the story itself is great (but if you're at all sensitive to bad language, don't bother picking this one up), the best thing about the story is the way that Pinchot was able to adapt his voice to represent more than 20 characters-- white, black, southern, northern, Vietnamese, educated, poor-- he captured them all.