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Sandbox, The Paperback – 26 May 2011

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 18 reviews
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
An Amazing Study of Desperation, Courage, Compassion, and all the Things You Need in Good Books 25 Mar 2010
By Scott - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It's not very often you find a literary novel that grips you with the strength of a potboiler, but this one delivers. I've seen reviews that compare this novel to various military books and thrillers. However, calling this book a mere thriller or Army book is like referring to "To Kill a Mockingbird" as a courtroom drama. It's not entirely inaccurate to say so, but the book is so much more than that. Told in a terse, poignant, lyrical and literary voice, "The Sandbox" tells the story of Army enlisted man Toby Durrant. Toby's involved in the conflict in Iraq and is a man in over his head; he's not exactly sure what he's doing in Iraq, but he's loyal to his friends and to his unit. Before long, though, he's subject to the manipulations of an intruding intelligence officer with a hidden agenda. This book is more about how men act when they're isolated from their loved ones, from the world of the normal, from each other, and from life, than it is about Iraq; in many ways it could be as easily set in the Civil War or Vietnam or the first world war or a board room in Seattle or wherever. The real question is whether Toby can keep his head above water and somehow satisfy the task set before him by the intelligence officer without betraying his comrades and himself. He doesn't even know if he can save himself, but he'll do everything in his power to save Herman, the small orphan boy he tries to help. Anyone finishing this novel comes away not so much having learned about the war in Iraq as knowing a little more about the "human heart in conflict with itself."
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
a war novel for people who thought they never wanted to read a war novel 17 April 2010
By Patricia Loftfjeld - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I was shocked by how much I enjoyed this book this book--I thought I would never be so riveted by a war novel. Zimmerman's excellent writing layered over believable human characters helped me understand what exactly the war in Iraq must look like to the soldiers there.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
great Iraqi war saga 6 April 2010
By Harriet Klausner - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In the middle of the Iraqi Desert at Forward Operating Base Cornucopia, known by those misfortunate to be stationed there as Sandbox, U.S. Army Private Toby Durrant was worrying about his pregnant fiancée, but not for long. An ambush kills two soldiers while a shocked Toby pees in his pants.

Still stunned, Lieutenant Blankenship assigns Toby to quietly scrutinize the information provided by their translator and afterward question two prisoners suspected of belonging to the insurgents. Besides a lack of language skill, Toby is further confused why him as he has no interrogation experience or training. Nothing makes sense to him, but fearing something darker engulfing him, he almost pees again in his pants when the two Iraqi prisoners are found dead. Military Intel arrives to interrogate Toby; asking him questions about Blankenship.

There is lot more going on in the desert, but what makes this a great Iraqi war saga is Toby, an ordinary individual who has made several mistakes in his life, but now is caught up with something that could unfairly leave him holding the bag. He has learned the path sh*t travels in the military as corruption at the top means those at the bottom pay the price if exposure occurs. Pulling no punches, David Zimmerman paints a grim military thriller of a grunt just trying to survive the folly of war fought as a suits' capitalist endeavor.

Harriet Klausner
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Well worth your time 4 May 2010
By James S. Brown - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I purchased the Kindle edition of The Sandbox on the recommendation of a friend who knows the author (whom I've never met). I'm glad I did. I have avoided novels and films about the current war(s) for some reason; I guess I feel like more time and distance will allow for a reasonable aesthetic perspective on the literature of the conflicts. The Sandbox is not particularly (overtly) political, though, and while it does a good job of describing the war and life in a tiny, remote base--very credibly from where I'm sitting, thousands miles away from knowing anything what soldiers are going through--it's also a mystery. There's more plot here than I expected.

The plot is also the novel's greatest weakness, as so much of it is unfortunately revealed in a lengthy (and dare I say somewhat contrived) expository conversation late in the novel. If I had to guess, I'd blame this on the editing process and on some marketing decision to shorten the novel. Instead of being shown this part of the story, instead of living it vicariously through the main character, we listen while a lot of the twists and turns are explained in dialogue. It's an expeditious solution to the problem of exposition, but it's not a particularly graceful one.

This is unfortunate, but don't get me wrong: it's not a deal-breaker. The novel is a great read, and it's one that I'll read again. Zimmerman clearly has an excellent ear for dialogue, and it's obvious that he's done his homework. His protagonist is at once an Everyman and a person of unusual character and sensitivity. I read a review (NY Times maybe?) that dinged Zimmerman for some heavy-handed symbolism, and if I'd only read the opening chapters, I might have agreed with it; in the context of the whole novel, though, that criticism just doesn't hold a lot of water.

I'm not ready to declare David Zimmerman the next Tim O'Brien or anything, but The Sandbox is a great read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Entertaining mystery set in the Iraq War 6 Jan 2011
By Jeff the Zombie - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Nearly everything written about David Zimmerman's debut novel, The Sandbox, is wrong -- from the marketing to the title to the Amazon description. It seems the publisher has decided that this is a war novel, when in reality it is a noir set during the late days of the Iraq war. This may lead to some confused readers -- yes, it takes place in a warzone, and yes its narrator is a soldier, but the crux of the story rests on a central mystery that consumes the protagonist as he tries to unravel it.

The book centers around Toby Durrant, a U.S. private stationed at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Cornucopia, a remote American outpost in Iraq that has recently seen much of its strength reduced in the gradual draw down of U.S. forces. Manned by a skeleton crew, a seemingly random IED attack on the base's commanding officer, leads Durrant down a twisting path that includes his fellow soldiers, the remaining lieutenant, a spooky captain from military intelligence who doesn't seem to have a name, and the Iraqi insurgents.

An entertaining mystery set in a war zone, some of the characters and situations in The Sandbox are on the nose, but overall the book is a brisk and enjoyable read. It may not be the book its publisher sold it as, but it offers an interesting spin on the noir genre.
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