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Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by…
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Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War (original 2010; edition 2010)

by Karl Marlantes

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1,559None4,684 (4.34)353
Member:andrewjuu
Title:Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War
Authors:Karl Marlantes
Info:Atlantic Monthly Press (2010), Edition: 1, Kindle Edition, 617 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned
Rating:*****
Tags:None

Work details

Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes (2010)

2010 (8) 2011 (10) 21st century (7) American (10) American literature (10) audiobook (8) ebook (23) fiction (252) first edition (12) historical (10) historical fiction (60) history (9) Indiespensable (14) Kindle (18) literature (10) military (18) military fiction (9) novel (31) read (11) read in 2010 (10) signed (20) soldiers (6) to-read (50) unread (9) USA (10) USMC (33) Vietnam (119) Vietnam War (134) war (93) war fiction (11)
  1. 50
    The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien (chrisharpe)
    chrisharpe: Both excellent fictional accounts based on Vietnam wartime experience.
  2. 20
    The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh (rebeccanyc)
    rebeccanyc: Whether American or Vietnamese, the experience of the Vietnam/American war was shared, and these two books explore the experience of fighting and remembering from differing perspectives.
  3. 20
    Dispatches by Michael Herr (erickandow)
  4. 20
    What It Is Like to Go to War by Karl Marlantes (TooBusyReading)
    TooBusyReading: Nonfiction by the author of Matterhorn, this one is a great look at war through the eyes of someone who has been there - what we've done right, what we've done wrong, what we have to change.
  5. 20
    Chickenhawk by Robert Mason (chrisharpe)
    chrisharpe: This memoir is a fitting complement to Matterhorn's grunt's perspective, giving an account from the point of view of a Huey pilot with the 1st Cav. One is nominally fiction and the other "fact", though it's hard, if not impossible, to tell which is which.… (more)
  6. 10
    Life and Fate by Vassili Grossman (chrisharpe)
  7. 10
    Fields of Fire by James Webb (ecureuil)
  8. 10
    In Pharaoh's Army: Memories of the Lost War by Tobias Wolff (clif_hiker)
  9. 00
    Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach (alanteder)
    alanteder: "Matterhorn" author Karl Marlantes has said that part of the inspiration for his Vietnam War novel also comes from the Parsifal (aka Parzival aka Percival) Arthurian/Grail legends. See his speaking engagement at the Pritzker Military Library for instance at http://www.pritzkermilitarylibrary.org/events/2010/09-23-karl-marlantes.jsp… (more)
  10. 00
    The Forever War by Joe Haldeman (mysterymax)
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» See also 353 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 85 (next | show all)
This book is gripping. It won't let you go. It is also sad, sad, sad. It's not easy to read for those of us who lived through this time. It's about war in all it's toughness, it's dirt and muck and death, what it does to the souls' of men, and why we must find some way to advance beyond the "need" for war. An important book. ( )
  m2snick | Feb 19, 2014 |
This was good but that seems like a poor word to use about this book that is horrible starting with leeches that drop on you and jungle rot that eats your skin. This book painted the horror of the the Vietnam War as a war with no real purpose, taking the life of young men before they had a chance to live and the politics that make you angry. There is too much swearing, too much drinking but I decided that it probably would not be realistic that there wouldn't be a lot of swearing and drinking if alcohol was available. This was an unbearable situation. The ending left me thinking of the Wall in Washington and tears came to my eyes just as it did when I was in Washington. I didn't lose anyone in this war and it really didn't touch me much in a personal way but this book really brings it home. ( )
  Kristelh | Nov 16, 2013 |
Somehow it didn't quite live up to my expectations. The war depictions are genuinely moving. The descriptions of interplay between high brass and feet on the ground a bit cartoonish, but pretty authentic, as well. The racial dynamics and conflicts felt patched-on and over-wrought. Most importantly, I had expected to feel more deeply for more of the characters. As it turned out, I met too many characters at too superficial a level. Then again, perhaps my expectations were too high, a reaction to all the fawning reviews. ( )
  mabroms | Sep 3, 2013 |
I have now read this book several times and although I wasn't alive during the Vietnam War I feel that it gives me an insight into the frustration, boredom and terror that was daily lives for the soldiers in this conflict. The futility and occasional insanity of the situation on the ground is described in detail and leaves the reader feeling numb.

Told with compellingly real, imperfect characters, this is one of my favourite books of all time. A must read for anybody interested in the era. ( )
  Will-Hart | Jun 30, 2013 |
Review from 'audiobookfans' at Library Thing

This book is already getting a storm of media attention, mostly very favorable, so whatever I have to say will probably be somewhat redundant and won't matter much. But a book like Matterhorn DOES matter, and a helluva lot too! While the Vietnam war may have ended 35 years ago, its afereffects continue to resonate. And it seems even more relevant today with the U.S. embroiled in yet two more unwinnable wars - wars which go on and on with no end in sight. Why the hell can't America learn anything from history?!

In the early parts of the book, I thought Marlantes had bitten off more than he could chew, because he continues to introduce more and more characters, both men and officers, dozens of names. I struggled to try to keep them all straight - who was in which platoon and which officer was in charge? And the plethora of details and description - of the mud and blood and pus and sores and leeches etc. - threatened to literally drown the book in a sea of misery. And this was mostly without ever making contact with the nearly invisible enemy, the NVA or Viet Cong. But I stuck with it, and it all began to gradually make sense - or, perhaps better, the NONsense that is war. About three hundred pages in, Bravo Company finally made bloody contact with that elusive enemy and everything heated up and the narrative literally began to race along. The misery intensified and the wounded and dead began to pile up. Many of the those characters I'd struggled to keep straight simply fell away as casualties, and the circumstances of each was often enough to make you cry. One scene in particular, after a bloody offensive over one more mountain top, really hit home, as Marlantes noted in terse terms how everybody loses in this kind of a battle or war.

"The day was spent in weary stupefaction, hauling dead American teenagers to a stack beside the landing zone and dead Vietnamese teenagers to the garbage pit down the side of the north face."

Scenes of young men, many of them former altar boys (and not so long ago either), reduced to savagery and despair are enough to break your heart and there are many such scenes here. Marlantes is a master storyteller. The stories here, unfortunately, are mostly horror stories, interspersed only rarely with moments of humor, but laced throughout with deeply felt feelings of brotherhood and humanity.

Matterhorn, while it is a uniquely special book, and one that obviously cried to be written, made up of feelings and memories that undoubtedly had haunted the author for over thirty years, brought to mind other stories of that awful war, some true, some fictional. I thought of The Thirteenth Valley by John DelVecchio, another fat novel of Vietnam, as well as one of the very first Vietnam War novels, William Pelfrey's The Big V. The latter novel is long out of print, but strongly deserves another look, as it bore strong similarities to another classic novel of war, The Red Badge of Courage. On the memoir side of the street, Robert Mason's Chickenhawk and Frederick Downs' The Killing Zone come to mind. The fact is there have been dozens, scores of books to come out of the Vietnam war in the past forty years. The fact that Karl Marlantes' new novel is getting so much attention as such a late entry is a testament to its power and eloquence. This is not just a book about the mess that was Vietnam. This is a book about the folly that is war. I will recommend Matterhorn highly ( )
  jan.fleming | May 2, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 85 (next | show all)
Chapter after chapter, battle after battle, Marlantes pushes you through what may be one of the most profound and devastating novels ever to come out of Vietnam — or any war. It’s not a book so much as a deployment, and you will not return unaltered.
 
"It reads like adventure and yet it makes even the toughest war stories seem a little pale by comparison."
 
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Epigraph
Shame and honor clash where the courage of a steadfast man is motley like the magpie. But such a man may yet make merry, for Heaven and Hell have equal part in him.
- Wolfram von Eschenbach "Parzifal"
Dedication
This novel is dedicated to my children, who grew up with the good and bad of having a Marine combat veteran as a father.
First words
Mellas stood beneath the gray monsoon clouds on the narrow strip of cleared ground between the edge of the jungle and the relative safety of the perimeter wire.
Quotations
Between the emotion and the response, the desire and the spasm, falls the shadow (Matterhorn, p. 597)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 080211928X, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, March 2010: Matterhorn is a marvel--a living, breathing book with Lieutenant Waino Mellas and the men of Bravo Company at its raw and battered heart. Karl Marlantes doesn't introduce you to Vietnam in his brilliant war epic--he unceremoniously drops you into the jungle, disoriented and dripping with leeches, with only the newbie lieutenant as your guide. Mellas is a bundle of anxiety and ambition, a college kid who never imagined being part of a "war that none of his friends thought was worth fighting," who realized too late that "because of his desire to look good coming home from a war, he might never come home at all." A highly decorated Vietnam veteran himself, Marlantes brings the horrors and heroism of war to life with the finesse of a seasoned writer, exposing not just the things they carry, but the fears they bury, the friends they lose, and the men they follow. Matterhorn is as much about the development of Mellas from boy to man, from the kind of man you fight beside to the man you fight for, as it is about the war itself. Through his untrained eyes, readers gain a new perspective on the ravages of war, the politics and bureaucracy of the military, and the peculiar beauty of brotherhood. --Daphne Durham

Amazon Exclusive: Mark Bowden Reviews Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War

Mark Bowden is the bestselling author of Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, as well as The Best Game Ever, Bringing the Heat, Killing Pablo, and Guests of the Ayatollah. He reported at The Philadelphia Inquirer for twenty years and now writes for Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, and other magazines. He lives in Oxford, Pennsylvania.

Matterhorn is a great novel. There have been some very good novels about the Vietnam War, but this is the first great one, and I doubt it will ever be surpassed. Karl Marlantes overlooks no part of the experience, large or small, from a terrified soldier pondering the nature of good and evil, to the feel and smell of wet earth against scorched skin as a man tries to press himself into the ground to escape withering fire. Here is story-telling so authentic, so moving and so intense, so relentlessly dramatic, that there were times I wasn’t sure I could stand to turn the page. As with the best fiction, I was sad to reach the end.

The wrenching combat in Matterhorn is ultimately pointless; the marines know they are fighting a losing battle in the long run. Bravo Company carves out a fortress on the top of the hill so named, one of countless low, jungle-coated mountains near the border of Laos, only to be ordered to abandon it when they are done. After the enemy claims the hill’s deep bunkers and carefully constructed fields of fire, the company is ordered to take it back, to assault their own fortifications. They do so with devastating consequences, only to be ordered in the end to abandon Matterhorn once again.

Against this backdrop of murderous futility, Marlantes’ memorable collection of marines is pushed to its limits and beyond. As the deaths and casualties mount, the men display bravery and cowardice, ferocity and timidity, conviction and doubt, hatred and love, intelligence and stupidity. Often these opposites are contained in the same person, especially in the book’s compelling main character, Second Lt. Waino Mellas. As Mellas and his men struggle to overcome impossible barriers of landscape, they struggle to overcome similarly impossible barriers between each other, barriers of race and class and rank. Survival forces them to cling to each other and trust each other and ultimately love each other. There has never been a more realistic portrait or eloquent tribute to the nobility of men under fire, and never a more damning portrait of a war that ground them cruelly underfoot for no good reason.

Marlantes brilliantly captures the way combat morphs into clean abstraction as fateful decisions move up the chain of command, further and further away from the actual killing and dying. But he is too good a novelist to paint easy villains. His commanders make brave decisions and stupid ones. High and low there is the same mix of cowardice and bravery, ambition and selflessness, ineptitude and competence.

There are passages in this book that are as good as anything I have ever read. This one comes late in the story, when the main character, Mellas, has endured much, has killed and also confronted the immediate likelihood of his own death, and has digested the absurdity of his mission: "He asked for nothing now, nor did he wonder if he had been good or bad. Such concepts were all part of the joke he’d just discovered. He cursed God directly for the savage joke that had been played on him. And in that cursing Mellas for the first time really talked with his God. Then he cried, tears and snot mixing together as they streamed down his face, but his cries were the rage and hurt of a newborn child, at last, however roughly, being taken from the womb."

Vladimir Nabokov once said that the greatest books are those you read not just with your heart or your mind, but with your spine. This is one for the spine. --Mark Bowden

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:26:52 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

In the tradition of Norman Mailer's "The Naked and the Dead" and James Jones's "The Thin Red Line," Marlantes tells the powerful and compelling story of a young Marine lieutenant, Waino Mellas, and his comrades in Bravo Company, who are dropped into the mountain jungle of Vietnam as boys and forced to fight their way into manhood.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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