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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, gripping, film-like history of the war in the Pacific
There has been so much hype about TV series of the Pacific ($200 million dollar production + Spielburg + Hanks + Band of Brothers + HBO + Sky Movies - blah, blah, blah) I decided to read this book in an effort to be as well informed as possible before the series kicks off. I always try to read the book behind the latest film or TV show that I'm interested in. It's not...
Published on 1 April 2010 by Nick Harris

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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Why this book is a big disappointment...
Like a lot of my fellow reviewers I am a big fan of Stephen Ambrose, who brought history to life with his slightly off-beat, entertaining yet moving style of writing. I guess also like many of you, I bought those books based on the excellent Band of Brothers mini-series.

So I had high hopes not only of the new mini-series 'Pacific' (it is HBO, after all!) and...
Published on 20 Nov 2010 by E. Sharman


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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Why this book is a big disappointment..., 20 Nov 2010
By 
E. Sharman (Warwickshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Like a lot of my fellow reviewers I am a big fan of Stephen Ambrose, who brought history to life with his slightly off-beat, entertaining yet moving style of writing. I guess also like many of you, I bought those books based on the excellent Band of Brothers mini-series.

So I had high hopes not only of the new mini-series 'Pacific' (it is HBO, after all!) and the book by Hugh Ambrose.

There's something slightly self-indulgent about the mini-series, and there's something VERY self-indulgent about the book. Let me explain what is so very wrong with it...

It's the style of writing. It's difficult to explain, but I've narrowed it down to the following problems:

- The 'bullet-point compendium' problem: it's like Mr Ambrose was doing masses and masses of research, and listed thousands of bullet points of things to include. Then it's as though he just compiled all the bullet points into the main text, with no real attempt to weave it all together. Many sentences are ridiculously short, and there's often a whole string of them just kind of thrown together. It gets very irritating and tedious, almost like a barrage of 'sound-bites'. That leads to the second point...

- The picture postcard style: think of when you send a postcard to your family - you throw a lot of facts down in a small space to cover as much ground as possible. Mr Ambrose does this repeatedly. So we get not only the 'bullet point' style, but a mystifying and confusing overload of detail - detail that's often not really relevant to the topic at hand. I found myself repeatedly thinking "What? - Why on earth is that in there?" What do I mean by this? Well an example might be if someone were describing a really important event in some detail, listing the characters, the situation etc. and it's littered with phrases like "He was a bit hungry so he had a bar of chocolate." Followed quickly by "The washing machine had finished the spin cycle. That's the Model 7000A washing machine, which had been delivered the day before." It's like this all the way through. It drove me potty!

- The lack of emotional narrative. Stephen Ambrose put you in the thick of the action. Hugh Ambrose describes it like he's a robot recalling facts.

BUT, in the interests of objectivity, there are sections of excellent readability. It's like two different people wrote the book. Or (sadly, possibly) that production deadlines forced it to be completed without joining parts of the narrative up properly.

I accept some people may enjoy the style - I guess it's partly about how your brain processes stuff. But it didn't suit my style and I was massively disappointed. I read a lot of historical stuff and I have not read anything quite like this for a long time. Or maybe I've just been too spoiled by Mr Ambrose Snr?
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Experiences - Badly Produced Book, 21 Mar 2010
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I have been a fan of Stephen Ambrose for many years and enjoyed especially his books "Band of Brothers", "Pegasus Bridge" and "D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II". What I loved was Stephen Ambrose's eye for detail and how his books were always well produced. So I was looking forward to reading a book by his son Hugh Ambrose, who worked with his father before Stephen Ambrose sadly died.

"The Pacific" by Huge Ambrose is a collection of experiences by soldiers and airmen involved in the Pacific campaign against Imperial Japan during World War II. I have appreciated reading about these brave men: marines, airmen and even POWs. This book is a complement of the HBO/Sky series by the same name and is not simply relating the same material. You will find some characters in the book which are not featured in the TV series and some characters from the TV series are hardly covered by the book.

The Imperial Japanese Navy attack upon Pearl Harbour was supposed to produce a short war where the United States would leave Imperial Japan to rule their empire unopposed, but it caused the American nation, the "sleeping giant" to rise up in hatred and fury against the "sneaky attack" that Japan had inflicted upon Pearl Harbour.

Be warned, some of the material is horrific and disturbing, but that was the nature of this conflict where brutal Japanese soldiers, airmen and sailors took no notice of the rules of warfare and simply did what they wanted. They used bayonets on defenceless prisoners and thought nothing of massacring women and children. If POWs attempted to escape they were savagely beaten and then executed. Beatings by Japanese soldiers were very common and they regarded Chinese people especially as subhuman, treating them accordingly.

American soldiers soon learnt not to trust "Jap surrender" because that usually involved the Japanese soldier setting off a grenade which would take the lives of many unwary American soldiers. As a consequence hardly any experienced marines took risks. Such facts emphasize the brutal nature of the fighting and illustrate how bitter the conflict was. All this is reflected in the pages of this book.

There are sadly a considerable number of aspects about this book I found very disappointing. This is a poorly made book. There is no contents page, no index, few maps and no listing of maps, chapters are very long and there are no subheadings. The text is very small and I personally used a magnifying glass to read with comfort, which is something other older readers will have difficulty with also. Due to the lack of enough ink applied when printing the text on some pages is very faint and even more difficult to read.

At the start I stated how much I enjoyed reading the works of Stephen Ambrose. But sadly this book by Huge Ambrose has not been anywhere near the lofty standards set by his father. Poor production values, have seriously undermined the fine experiences contained in this book. It all feels as though this book has been put together in a hurry, so that it's release coincides with the HBO/Sky series and lacks the methodical care that one normally expects from a quality history book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 18 Jun 2011
By 
Martin (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
It's been said that war is 90% boredom and 10% terror. This book captures this pretty well. By halfway you will most likely find yourself skipping from section to section looking for something to happen. Needs some serious editing to get rid of the chaff.

Sadly the 10% that should be interesting isn't. The Battle of Midway, one of the pivotal points of the war is largely told through the eyes of one pilot and reads like just another day at the office. No doubt this says much for the pilot's bravery and professionalism however it would have benefited from a wider perspective and a few more pages, at the expense of some of the many others e.g those that list the travels of the contributors from training base to training base.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No wonder you can buy this book for a penny!, 4 Oct 2011
Hugh Ambrose may be an able historian but, in my opinion, he is certainly not a good writer. There has been a total lack of supervision of the author by the publisher and they should be ashamed at letting this book go to print as it is. What a great pity indeed.

The previous poster has said it all about the writers style of writing - which gets most irritating after only a few pages. The repeating staccato sentences;the lack of proper punctuation and grammar; out of sync chronology; illogical sentence construction - honestly I would expect much better from students at elementary school. I cannot understand why the book was not subject to rigorous editing before publication.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, gripping, film-like history of the war in the Pacific, 1 April 2010
There has been so much hype about TV series of the Pacific ($200 million dollar production + Spielburg + Hanks + Band of Brothers + HBO + Sky Movies - blah, blah, blah) I decided to read this book in an effort to be as well informed as possible before the series kicks off. I always try to read the book behind the latest film or TV show that I'm interested in. It's not always possible and in this case it has been a race against time. This official companion history is a massive, five hundred page door-stopper. I've been up late all week, but I loved every page of it. The book definitely has a filmic quality to it, which makes it a really enjoyable read (it's also easy to understand why Spielburg used it as the basis for the TV show). LIke a film director, Hugh Ambrose cuts between the stories of five very different soldiers who fought in the key battles of the war in the Pacific. The pace of the action is relentless. The descriptions of the dive bombing sorties (try to imagine a pilot deliberately idling his engine and sliding in to a 8,000 free fall drop straight in to anti-aircraft gunfire...) is worth the cover price alone. And the desperate conditions of the POW camps are told in grim but compelling detail too. But what really works is reading the authentic voices of the soldiers. Ambrose explains in the foreword that the book is based on thousands of first-hand interviews plus original diaries and other written accounts. And it was worth this painstakign research - because it is hearing these voices that brings the story of the war alive.

I suppose that if you were looking for a big, traditional overview of the US war in the Pacific then this wouldn't be the place to start, but if you're looking for a compelling, filmic story about the day to day realities of the war and an insight in to the lives of the soldiers involved, then I would highly recommend this book.

Will the TV series live up to the hype? If it is as good as this book then it will. I can't wait for it to start
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Stephen Ambrose, 14 April 2011
By 
Mr. I. Ogilvie "Mr O" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
At the time of writing this review, the amazon review rating was 3 and a half stars: Where there is a healthy number of reviews on a product I have more often than not found the amazon review rating to be pretty accurate: I would rate this book as 3 stars.

To qualify this review, I would describe myself as a relatively light, occasional reader of military history. I rate Stephen Ambrose's writing highly and thoroughly enjoyed HBO's Band of Brother mini series. The Pacific theatre has been an area of interest to me since stumbling across Hampton Sides' 'Ghost Soldiers' about 5-6 years ago - an utterly harrowing and gripping account of the fall of the Phillipines, Bataan death march and treatment of US POWs by the Japanese. I have since struggled to find equivalent subject matter on the war in the Pacific written to a comparable standard. I have read this book a couple of weeks after watching the HBO mini series "The Pacific". And would usually classify myself as an "I enjoy the book more than the film/TV adaptation" sort of person. The Pacific may be an exception to this rule.

As other reviewers have pointed out there is not a driect match between the characters in the book vs the main characters in the series. So would-be readers should be aware that the quirky Robert Leckie is not covered by the book, but the account of the air and naval battles of the Pacific is dug into in more detail in these pages. The book and film do not directly overlap: be warned.

I applaud the aspiration of both the TV adaptation and book to attempt to weave character narratives together to cover a subject matter as epic as the WWII Pacific theatre, but in its noble intentions perhaps herein also lies the problem: The book becomes a bit of an overarching "Jack of all trades and master of none" at times. A narrative of other peoples narratives. Not to suggest there is not enough detail here: There is detail in abundance, not always appropriate and and often distracting as other reviewers have pointed out. The level of detail, I would suggest could have been better supported with a few more maps. I would point the author and editorial team in the direction of Hal Moores "We were soldiers once and Young" as an example of keeping the reader in tune with the description of detailed battlefield manouevres/tactics.

Picking up the book after the mini-series I guess I wanted to delve into Eugene Sledge's head that little bit more, the mini-series leaving a poignant ending of how the war had impacted on these young men. What I got from this book was more a narrative account of Ambrose picking out the detail from Sledges letters and written accounts. Having waded through this book I feel somewhat unrewarded. I think I will find the harrowing and moving memoirs that I'm looking for within the pages of Eugene Sledges' "With The Old Breed" and Robert Leckies' "Helmet For My Pillow".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read, 13 Nov 2010
I have not watched the TV series The Pacific, but as someone with an interest in history and the second World War I decided to give this book a go. It details the experiences of five men who fought in The Pacific.

The book is very detailed and really helps the reader to understand the experiences these men had. The pictures included are a good accompaniment to the text. Some parts of the book are a bit gory and are definately not for those seeking a light hearted read. I feel my enjoyment of the book would have increased if I had seen the TV show. However, I feel it can be read alone and still be enjoyed.

As another reviewer has stated, the size of the print is very small and it can be a bit uncomfortable reading it for a significant length of time. I would recommend this to readers interested in history and the war, as it provides a different perspective than other books as it looks at specific people's experiences. It was a fascinating and emotional insight into the battles fought in the Pacific. A very thought provoking read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Where are the maps?, 19 Oct 2010
By 
Big Jim "Big Jim" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
Other reviewers go into this book in more detail than I, suffice to say that this is an eminently readable account of the war in the pacific as seen through the eyes of some of the protagonists. Some criticisms:-

The maps are awful. bearing in mind this is a tie in surely expense cannot be the reason that the maps in the paperback edition at least are line drawings that a 12 year old geography student could have been done. Given the epic scope of the theatre at least a couple of decent, detailed maps could have been produced.
No Japanese perspective. Ok the premise of the book is the US experience in the Pacific war but some balance should have been added
No chapters. the narrative jumps all over the place, with the location and date/time often being thrown in almost as an afterthought. I believe the stories are told in a chronological series but some decent sub editing would have surely sorted this out. I'm not sure we can blame the author for all the above but the story he tells is so potentially enthralling that the bittiness of it detracts from the reading experience.

I usually only review books that I have really enjoyed and hate to be overly critical of this one as I did find enough in it to justify finishing it but on the whole I would have to recommend the two "partner" autobiographies out there Helmet for my Pillow: The World War Two Pacific Classic and With the Old Breed: The World War Two Pacific Classic (Pacific TV Tie in) as being much more rivetting reads, if you'll excuse the cliche.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hugh is no Stephen, 24 Mar 2010
By 
I have to agree with reviewer "father2" - this should have been an excellent book, but the (fascinating) stories of these young men are let down badly by the style and presentation of the material. I am a big fan of the late Stephen Ambrose, but I have to say that his son Hugh is simply not in the same league as a writer.

For one - and I don't know if this was a publisher/editor thing - but it has the most irritatingly "dumbed down" explanations I've ever seen in a history book. EVERYTHING is laboriously explained to a ludicrous degree. For example, when told that a recruiting tent contained a number of NCOs, we are then told (in brackets) that "NCO" means "non-commissioned officer". You don't say. But then it is FURTHER explained that this means "sergeants, corporals, etc." For heaven's sake, who is this book aimed at?

We are also told that "R.A.F." stands for "the Royal Air Force (of Great Britain)", that the port side of a ship is the left, and that the captain is sometimes known as "the skipper". Aaaaarrrrgggghhhh!!!

If they were really worried that we wouldn't understand these things, they should have put them in a glossary instead of repeatedly embedding definitions in the text. And I agree - the lack of contents and index is poor, and the maps are inadequate. To be fair, I had no problem with the print size or clarity, so perhaps "father2" was unlucky with his copy.
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3.0 out of 5 stars The Pacific, 27 Mar 2014
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I really wanted to like this book as I am a big fan of Stephen Ambrose's work and I hoped his son Hugh Ambrose would be able to write as well. The big difference here though is that while Stephen Ambrose had a knack for telling soldiers tales he also applied his own historical analysis to the work.

In "The Pacific" what we get is the story of five soldiers who served in the Pacific War and whose stories overlap enough to cover the whole course of the war. There is no attempt at analysis or discussion of the strategy and tactics but simply a re-telling of what was presumably a recorded interview with these veterans.

What is particularly annoying is that part of the book relays the story of Eugene Sledge almost exactly as he wrote it himself in his war memoirs "With The Old Breed". Is there any real need to repeat that story here, as surely there were other unpublished veterans Hugh Ambrose could have talked to.

Its strange therefore that the other 'character' from the television series, Robert Leckie is not included in the book. Hugh Ambrose explains that this was because his experiences were covered in his book "Helmet For My Pillow", and that he has included another similar account that covers the same period. So why repeat one and not the other?

In addition to these two three other veterans add their voices to the story of the Pacific War as seen through their eyes. But that remains the problem - five peoples experiences, even if they were involved in all the major events of the war does not even begin to tell the whole story. For Stephen Ambroses book "Citizen Soldiers" he interviewed dozens of soldiers and gives a much better overall impression of what war in Europe was like for the average soldier. For the war in the Pacific this only tells you what the war was like for five individuals.

As others have pointed out the style of writing is also slightly annoying. Hugh Ambrose attempts to add drama to events by writing in short snappy sentences. While his father was able to do this to great effect Hugh Ambrose over does it and you get entire chapters of tiny sentences which ruin any emotional impact the story might have had.

By the end of the book you get some idea of what the Pacific War was like but I still found myself crying out for some input from the author. At no point does he even try to talk about the background to the war, the weapons, the tactics, the commanders and their strategies, the vehicles and planes, or even the differences between the different branches of service involved. If you are hoping for a history book on the Pacific War this is not it. This is more of a biography of five very brave and resilient men who fought during the war but with nothing more added to place it in context.
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