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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply brilliant
I thought this book was really excellent. It is hugely enjoyable and brilliantly written - engrossing, funny and extremely wise and shrewd about its subject and its characters.

The narrative has been well summarized here and elsewhere: briefly, Billy Lynn and his fellow soldiers of Bravo squad were filmed in a heroic firefight in Iraq and the Bush...
Published 20 months ago by Sid Nuncius

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars A good idea but nothing really happens
Before I write a review, I must confess that although this looked like a novel I might enjoy, it probably isn't a book/subject I would ever easily idenitfy with. Others have, and will.

Billy is the central characters is one of the 'Bravos'; a team of soldiers returned from the Iraq war, having distinguished themselves to the point of becoming celebrities. Back...
Published 11 hours ago by F. M. M. Stott


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply brilliant, 27 Jan 2013
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
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I thought this book was really excellent. It is hugely enjoyable and brilliantly written - engrossing, funny and extremely wise and shrewd about its subject and its characters.

The narrative has been well summarized here and elsewhere: briefly, Billy Lynn and his fellow soldiers of Bravo squad were filmed in a heroic firefight in Iraq and the Bush administration is now shipping them around the USA on a highly publicised "Victory Tour" to bolster support for the war. The book is an account of their last day of the tour seen through Billy's eyes and serves as a commentary on contemporary USA and its attitudes. It's a great read: excellently structured, involving and with a cast of brilliantly drawn characters including Billy himself who is a thoroughly engaging protagonist.

Ben Fountain satirises not so much the war itself as things like the hypocrisy, wilful ignorance and exploitation which surround it. He also shares JD Salinger's contempt for the phoney and how it has pervaded modern life. For example, of a rich businessman working a room: "Norm is confident, absolutely, he is the king of self-esteem, but this is the confidence of self-help tapes and motivational mantras, confidence learned as one learns a foreign language, and so the accent lingers in his body language, a faint arthritic creak in every smile and gesture." The book is full of these gems of insight as well as brilliant descriptive phrases like Billy ecstatically holding a beautiful cheerleader in his arms as she "breathes clouds of glory in his face," and I found the description of the half-time extravaganza so vivid as to feel I was there in Billy's shoes.

Some people have suggested that this is the Catch-22 of the Iraq war, but I'm not sure I agree. I think the style is closer to Hunter S. Thompson than to Joseph Heller, and I would describe it more as the Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas of the Iraq War. It stands on its own merits, though and it's a simply brilliant, engaging, thought-provoking read and very, very warmly recommended.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Humanity and Hilarity, 18 Jan 2013
By 
D. Elliott (Ulverston, Cumbria) - See all my reviews
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The story of `Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk' is a sublime mixture of humanity and hilarity. Along with other soldiers of the Bravo squad in Iraq Billy has been hailed as a hero after a fearful firefight which was captured by TV news and is regarded as worthy of being made into a Hollywood movie. The soldiers' role is to bolster support for the Iraq war and they have been sent on a public relations tour of stage managed receptions in America before being returned back to combat duties. Apart from minor reflections and commentaries the time span covered by the narrative is concentrated on their final engagement at an American football game, though within this restricted period author Ben Fountain manages to develop credible characters to support his satirical tale. Billy is somewhat of a reluctant hero and is more capable of contemplation and consideration than other members of the squad apart from the Sergeant. His is a story of courage, hope and optimism set against fear, despair and foreboding to which Ben Fountain skilfully overlays propaganda and manipulation. `Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk' is a poignant and powerful indictment on the Bush era and America's attitudes to war.

Interwoven amongst revelations to Billy's background, his family, and his confusion over the future there are thought provoking insights with ample scope for interpreting pros and cons of waging war to support democracy and freedom set against the costs of trauma and death. Also there is scope for humour from the camaraderie, even love, within a group of soldiers similar to bonding between mountaineers in civvie street. There is bad language and the soldiers exhibit rather too much vulgarity but it is justified via self deprecation. Also there is irritating American slang but it serves to highlight the limited intellect of "grunt" soldiers, and it allows a variety of encounters and experiences to be illustrated. Ben Fountain cleverly switches between arrogant, abusive behaviour and mild good manners, and he uses the Bravo squad to comment on American obsessions with big business, political pressures, religious authority, "Hollywood" influences, celebrities etc. as well as the human nature of ordinary citizens and their perspectives on the Iraq war. `Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk' provides evocative descriptions of many elements of life in America, particularly with a portrayal of American football as dull and dreary. For British readers the narrative provides a revealing view of America in addition to its main thrust as an exposé on the ethics and morality of war.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel in the great American tradition, 10 Aug 2012
By 
Mr. Jonathan Pratt "japratt2" (Cambridgeshire UK) - See all my reviews
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Much has been written by other reviewers about this wonderful book, nearly all doing justice to a significant addition to a great American novel tradition. Above the political and social commentary there is the wonderful creation that is Billy Lynn. He is the natural descendant of Huck Finn - not naturally articulate in speech but hugely articulate in his emotional understanding of his world and his naive questioning of the icons of market capitalism seem to echo all of us in questioning something that is beyond normal comprehension.

It is for this reason that the possibly overblown metaphorical language of the novel, particularly when describing Billy's reactions to the craziness and distortions around him, actually works. The novel defies us to underestimate Billy's capacity for feeling.

Like Gatsby, Billy is looking for something "commensurate to his capacity for wonder", and the love story at the core of the novel is especially poignant

This is a novel in the great American tradition.

P.S It is also very funny
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rip-roaring race through the heart of modern America, 3 July 2012
By 
Jonathan Marley (Winchester, England) - See all my reviews
I first heard of Ben Fountain through Malcolm Gladwell's 'Late Bloomers' feature in the New Yorker. When I heard he had a novel coming out, expectations were naturally high...and boy does this book live up to and exceed those expectations. For a debut novel it is so well-structured and paced, with really memorable characters, a fantastic narrative perspective and that perfect balance of the hilarious, the satirical and the sentimental. Jonathan Franzen once said that a really good book leaves a little hole in your life and that's exactly how I felt about this book. It's a book that really feels significant, a must-read for anyone who loves top literary fiction and anyone who feels fiction can and should say something about the world we live in (which should be everybody!).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended, 28 Dec 2012
By 
Johnnybluetime - See all my reviews
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Billy Lynn and Bravo squad are in Dallas on the last day of a victory tour around the USA after an heroic firefight in Iraq goes viral on YouTube.

Fountain's novel is a coruscating and funny critique of modern America condensed into one day spent as guests of honour at the Dallas Cowboys football stadium.He shows the vacuity of much of modern life through this allegorical tale as Bravo are trapped watching a boring game in which what little activity there is seems squeezed in between interminable commercials,which are even broadcast in the stadium itself.He compares the gigantic,almost superhuman,coddled millionare players to the young soldiers and the unspoken question is why are they so well rewarded for playing a game that's barely a sport anymore whilst the young GI's get little more than a victory tour and the transitory admiration of the confused and ignorant supporters of the war.

Everyone wants something from the soldiers: the fans who want an autograph;the rich elite who want a story that will validate their belief that America is doing the right thing;Albert the ageing movie producer who wants to become a Hollywood player again by making a film of Bravo's story even if it means having Hilary Swank play the part of Billy and Norm,the cheerfully ruthless owner of the Cowboys,who wants to cash in on the Bravos story.Even Faisson,the beautiful cheerleader Billy has a brief but passionate romance with and who he instinctively knows will think less of him if he does not return to Iraq.

The comparison to Catch 22 is odious,this is a good book but that was a great one that changed people's views and laid the groundwork for books such as this,but which also ended on a note of optimism.Here the reader wishes Billy and his comrades well,but we are all more cynical now and there is the constant nagging fear that only death awaits them on their return to Iraq.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To Heller and back., 23 Jan 2013
By 
Sue Kichenside - See all my reviews
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Few books have entered the collective consciousness quite like Catch-22. Many have tried to usurp Joseph Heller's position as the No 1 war satirist. Many war novels are compared to Catch-22 on their front covers. But in truth, how many of these books deserve even to be mentioned in the same breath?

The front cover quote from Matterhorn author Karl Marlantes says: `The Catch-22 of the Iraq War'. True or false? Well, in this case, simply misleading. Because this is not a war book; this is a book about America. Ben Fountain's writing is breathtakingly good: inventive, engaging, in turns muscular and empathetic. Always believable. Often funny. Certainly, there are pyrotechnics but thankfully these are more reminiscent of Michael Chabon than Tom Wolfe. Here is a genuine and terrific new talent in his own right.

At the outset, the men of Bravo Squad are on two weeks' leave for a PR 'Victory Tour' of the States and we join them (ironically, on Thanksgiving Day) as they make their way by white Hummer limo to a Dallas Cowboys home game at Texas Stadium. Here, they will be feted as conquering heroes by big money, the media and chanting - and enchanting - cheerleaders. A film producer is along for the ride and has high hopes of making a movie of Bravo's battle exploits. But looming over all the excitement of the day is the prospect of returning to Iraq for the remainder of Bravo Squad's tour of duty.

The key character is 19-year old Billy, a thoroughly likeable character who, during the course of the day, becomes something of a "philosopher-grunt". Then there is his authority figure, the intriguing Sergeant Dime, not many years older than Billy but in `dog years' (as their time in Iraq is referred to) wise for his age and the men look up to him. Billy has a back story which is explored during an earlier visit to his family while on leave. Other than this brief interlude, the story takes place at the football arena. In its way, also a theatre of war, perhaps. But not Iraq. If you want bombs and bullets, this may not be the book for you. But if you want razzle-dazzle writing and a reflective account of what war means, then this is a must-read.

Ben Fountain, I take my hat off to you. Bravo!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strong central character and funny, intelligent comment on US values, 3 July 2012
By 
Ripple (uk) - See all my reviews
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In Ben Fountain's "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk", Billy and what is left of his Bravo troop colleagues are back from the war in Iraq following a brave firefight caught on camera by embedded journalists. The US army, keen to gain PR from the event has brought them back on an optimistically titled "Victory Tour" despite the fact that they are all to be re-deployed the next week. The majority of the book takes place on the last day of this tour when Billy is in his home-state of Texas, where the Bush link makes it even more pro-war, as the boys are invited to attend that most American of PR events, the Thanksgiving football game at the Dallas Cowboys stadium. Accompanying the troop is a veteran Hollywood producer who has promised the soldiers that he can sell their story to a movie studio for mega-bucks. If only it were that simple.

Billy is a hugely sympathetic character that is superbly drawn. The book deals with the American obsessions of big business, sport, celebrity and movies, and some might add Middle East war to this list. The boys are like fish out of water in their celebrity at home and the PR image of the war has no relation to their experience of it. But while the book's general politics are broadly pro-troops / anti-war, this is not rammed home and the reader can pull together the subtleties of the situation. War is where these boys feel most at home, but that doesn't make them mindless thugs in any way. Certainly they are far removed from the worlds of Hollywood, Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders and Destiny's Child who are performing the half time entertainment which makes for entertaining situations.

Billy in particular has gained much from his army experience. With a redneck background and a father who even before his strokes rendered him speechless, was never the father figure Billy needed, Billy only joined up to avoid jail, and yet in his fallen sargeant, Shroom, Billy has gained some direction and guidance in life.

For all the obvious contrasts between the world's of entertainment and America's views of the war from home, these points are never laboured. Instead what we get is a character driven novel that is highly entertaining, often funny and ultimately moving yet at the same time saying important things about the culture and society that can send these young men half way around the world to fight a war.

While everyone makes great show of praising the troops, all they want to do it to meet the cheerleaders, and ideally Destiny's Child, and to find the next source of alcohol, although not necessarily in that order. They also want to make some money from the movie rights but the best the movie producer seems to be able to get them is Hilary Swank to play the part of one of the men.

It's not only a superbly entertaining book with a memorable central character, but it is also probably quite an important book that says a great deal about our age and ways of life without ever being preachy on the subject. Critically, it shows rather than tells which is always a sign of a very good book. And if you are nervous about the American Football content, don't be - it hardly gets a mention. It will probably change what you think when watch news footage of troops though - one of them might be Billy Lynn.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A good idea but nothing really happens, 23 Sep 2014
By 
F. M. M. Stott (Devizes, Wiltshire) - See all my reviews
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Before I write a review, I must confess that although this looked like a novel I might enjoy, it probably isn't a book/subject I would ever easily idenitfy with. Others have, and will.

Billy is the central characters is one of the 'Bravos'; a team of soldiers returned from the Iraq war, having distinguished themselves to the point of becoming celebrities. Back home on leave, they emerge blinking and disorientated into the bright lights of publicity; of stardom; of fame. A feature film is planned; everyone wants to shake their hands and get to know them. Most of the action (if you can call it that; there really is very little) takes place at a game of American football in a huge stadium. Here, there are more hands to shake, more congratulations, cheerleaders to fall for. But "a kind of abyss separates the war over here from the war over there". Civilians have no idea what these young men have been through, and the soldiers can't really tell them.

However, it is hard to pull off a novel where the narrative covers a very small time frame (like Ian McEwan's Saturday, where it is brilliantly done), and because there is a slight plot and hardly anything actually happens, I became increasingly bored with this novel, and struggled to get through it. Although I sympathised with Billy, I never really warmed to him, and because we know from the beginning that he and his colleagues are going to have to return to the war in a couple of days, the ending is (more or less) a foregone conclusion. I have to say I know nothing about American football, which might have helped me appreciate the novel more, but I am sure that many people will really like this book. It is well written and researched, but sadly, not a novel for me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A.Little Patience needed, 15 Nov 2013
By 
Mrs. C. Colbert (Blackburn, Lancashire, UK) - See all my reviews
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You may need a little patience reading this book.It got off to a slow start, but then moved along at a pace.
It delivers a one day extravaganza.
This is good ole USA at its finest.
In just one day we have it all. Stars and stripes,heroism, patriotism, militarism, and of course Hollywood.
The book looks at the politics behind the Iraq war, with President Bush doing his usual sabre rattling.
My advice is to try to see through this absurd rubbish.Stick with the story.Stick with the fantasy, and you will enjoy this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An important book, 16 Aug 2014
By 
R. Lawson "clavedoc" (Sheffield, UK) - See all my reviews
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The improbable scenario are the events taking place during an American Football match, describing the experience of Billy Lynn. That doesn't sound much to construct a book out of, but in fact Ben Fountain writes an important novel. Billy is a member of Bravo Company who fought in Iraq. They are caught in a dramatic firefight which happens to be caught on camera by Fox News, and the Youtube clip of this goes viral. On their return to the US Billy and his company are feted as heroes, and are guests of honour at the football game. There are talks of a movie, and everyone wants to meet them.
Along the way the book touches on a variety of American archetypes; cheerleaders, the affluent middle class, wealthy entrepreneurs, and heroic soldiers defending freedom and the American way of life. The book critiques each in its way but not in a simplistic fashion, and not to any overt agenda. It is (loosely speaking) anti-war, but again this isn't in a simple sort of pacifist way. The striking thing is Billy's ordinary nature. His wants and aspirations are those of everyman, and the book subtely but relentlessly exposes how society is at odds with ordinary folks needs and aspirations.
All of that sounds worryingly worthy, and a bit of a slog, but in the book has a lightness of touch throughout and moments of genuine humour. It is a superbly original treatment of some important contemporary issues.
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Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (Paperback - 27 Nov 2012)
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