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What it is Like to Go to War [Hardcover]

Karl Marlantes
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
RRP: 16.99
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Kindle Edition 4.19  
Hardcover 11.13  
Paperback 7.19  
Audio, CD, Audiobook 20.80  
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Book Description

1 Jan 2012
In 1968, at the age of 22, Karl Marlantes abandoned his Oxford University scholarship to sign up for active service with the US Marine Corps in Vietnam. Pitched into a war that had no defined military objective other than kill ratios and body counts, what he experienced over the next thirteen months in the jungles of South East Asia shook him to the core. But what happened when he came home covered with medals was almost worse. It took Karl four decades to come to terms with what had really happened, during the course of which he painstakingly constructed a fictionalized version of his war, MATTERHORN, which has subsequently been hailed as the definitive Vietnam novel.

WHAT IT IS LIKE TO GO TO WAR takes us back to Vietnam, but this time there is no fictional veil. Here are the hard-won truths that underpin MATTERHORN: the author's real-life experiences behind the book's indelible scenes. But it is much more than this. It is part exorcism of Karl's own experiences of combat, part confession, part philosophical primer for the young man about to enter combat. It It is also a devastatingly frank answer to the questions 'What is it like to be a soldier?' What is it like to face death?' and 'What is it like to kill someone?'

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Corvus; First U.K. Edition edition (1 Jan 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857893777
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857893772
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 318,783 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


What It Is Like to Go to War is a well-crafted and forcefully argued work that contains fresh and important insights into what it's like to be in a war and what it does to the human psyche. --The Washington Post

About the Author

A graduate of Yale University and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, Karl Marlantes served as a Marine in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for valor, two Purple Hearts, and ten air medals. Matterhorn, his novel about the Vietnam War, took over three decades to complete and was an international bestseller. He and his wife Anne live on a small lake in western Washington state.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really ambitious book 9 Nov 2011
By Stewart M TOP 500 REVIEWER
The title of this book, along with the nearly obligator Don McCullin cover shot, may lead you to believe that this is a conventional war story, the autobiography of a man who had already written a well received novel about Vietnam.

But that is not this case. While there are sections of the book that focus on events and conflict in the jungles of South East Asia the main focus of this book is the mind of the soldier - or as the authors says "the warrior".

In simple terms this is a book about how the author felt about the experience of war, how his training had prepared him for this emotional conflict (or more often how his training did not prepare him for it) and a plan to better prepare the coming generations of warriors for war. This is not done with the idea that these new soldiers will be better "killing machines" - but that they will be better able to cope with the moral and emotional conflicts that war brings. While this may make them more effective on the battle fields, the authors' key objective is to make sure that former soldiers can better cope with the aftermath of conflict.

His central message revolves around the need to train soldiers (and their leaders) to understand both the morality and the darkness of their tasks. His argument is that you can't fully understand one if you do not acknowledge the other. Killing violates some many social norms that being able to do it (and do it repeatedly) is bound to cause conflicts in the healthy mind. His contention seems to be that warriors need to be able to access, but control, the darker, shadow parts of their personalities. If they understand the morality of their task control is possible. Shadow without morality leads to atrocity.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars IT WANDERS.... 27 Dec 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I thought that this book started well, but then became a bit of a treatise on emotional support for combat troops, and the morality of sending young men to war.
Still, this is from a very eloquent individual, a former Rhodes scholar, who really did see life from a fox-hole, so perhaps his opinion should be heard. Particularly by the likes of Blair and Cameron....
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars True five star quality 7 Aug 2012
I'm a sucker for books about war, or the effect that war has on people. Until I saw this book, I had never heard of Karl Marlantes. I mentioned this on Twitter soon after starting it, and was deluged with people recommending that I read his book, Matterhorn - called by many 'the best novel written about Vietnam'. Reel back to when I picked up What It Is Like To Go To War. I was hooked within a page. Good enough reason to buy, so I bought it, and read it all in about 24 hours.

This is a great piece of writing. Marlantes survived the hell of Vietnam, where he served as a Marine Corps officer, fighting in the most awful conditions, killing Viet Cong, losing his own men, and winning a large number of medals for bravery. When he came back to the USA, it's not surprising that he had been deeply, permanently scarred by his experiences. It took him several decades, but he worked his way out of the hell of PTSD. This book is about his journey from that hell, and his opinions on how modern armies could better equip the soldiers of today to face what will happen to them when they are thrown into the white hot, unforgiving cauldron of war. In a world where men can kill their enemies by sitting at a computer screen and clicking a mouse, before going home to their wives/girlfriends and families, there is no space for contemplation, no room for the mind and psyche to process what has been done.

As Marlantes says, this is not a good thing. War has been brought so close to 'ordinary' life, and yet the average person in the street still wants to know nothing about its terrible reality.
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I first read the author's book Matterhorn and found it a thoroughly gripping short of life in the jungles of Vietnam for American GIs placed in harm's way. The key reason for the power of Matterhorn is due to it's authenticity as Karl Marlantes served in Vietnam and therefore when I found "What It Is Like To Go To War" I immediately purchased it and have not been disappointed in any way. If you are interested in an honest appraisal of the Vietnam War, don't hesitate, just buy it! You won't be disappointed!
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5.0 out of 5 stars What it is like to go to War 11 Jun 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A great read. Very touching and very descriptive of men / women at the front at war.
I enjoy reading Karl Malantes, his Vietnam books are in put downable.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Truely great . 10 Nov 2013
I bought this book on an impulse usely titles like this hide a book of low grade action book but this is greater than that this book allows the author to bare his soul and show us that war never really ends for those who have visited this strange countryand who carry it with them for the rest of they lives. It was brilliant and enlightening and touching everyone with even a mild interest in Military history should read this you may not agree with him but you must read it it is written from the heart and mind of someone who has been there and been changed by the flames.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent read - clear articulation of the long term horrors of war
If a man like Marlantes, with his background and education, is able to articulate the long term effects of what he had to do in the horrors of Vietnam, then we should be listening... Read more
Published 19 hours ago by adam nunn
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
A real incite into both the experience, emotions and long term personal and psychological impact of combat. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Anton Bradley
2.0 out of 5 stars More of an introspection...
I bought this book after having read Karl Marlante's first book. This book is nowhere like the first book. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Jak Levi
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding
For anyone who is or has deployed. A must for commanders, even down to the lowest level. This book has helped me understand myself, and will aid me to assist others.
Published 16 months ago by MR LA DAVIDSON
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books ever written about the effects of war on those...
There have been very few books that I have ever read that were as thought provoking as this. All Quiet on the Western Front, which I read years and years ago; more recently... Read more
Published 20 months ago by G. G. Curtis
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive book on war
This is a remarkable book written by a remarkable person. It should be required reading for anyone joining the forces. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Simon Hulse
5.0 out of 5 stars A heartfelt guide on preparing for the trials and tribulations of war...
The book is a follow on to the author's best selling (and brilliant) Matterhorn but represents a very different read - rather than a slightly fictionalized account of the author's... Read more
Published 22 months ago by AK
4.0 out of 5 stars Most informative
I wasn't sure what to expect with this book but was pleasantly surprised. It offers an interesting insight into the moral dilemnas involved in the utility of force as well as... Read more
Published on 6 April 2012 by Random
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