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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 26 September 2011
Last year saw the publication of a masterpiece of Vietnam War fiction, Matterhorn, which was a searing and existentially bleak example of the battle novel. This year sees the publication of this very different, and only just slightly less impressive Vietnam War novel. At about half the length of Matterhorn, this book falls roughly into the crime genre, as it tells the tale of an Army CID officer sent undercover to a small base in the Central Highlands kind of near Pleiku. It seems that the North might be financing some of its international arms purchasing through the wholesale drug production and export of heroin and marijuana. "Captain" Rider and his partner are supposed to try and find out where the drugs are coming from and who might be involved.

But as well-plotted as the investigative storyline is, it's really just an excuse for the author (a Vietnam Vet) to vividly lay out the tenuousness of the American position in the country. What really pops to the fore is the complexity of the situation, as Rider tries to understand the relationships between the regular Army, the Green Beret outposts, the local CIA operative, the South Vietnamese Army unit across the road, their corrupt commander (who functions as provincial warlord), the various Montagnard tribes, the Viet Cong, local do-gooder missionaries, a sexy American medic, and more. Readers who aren't well-versed in the history of the Vietnam War will get a great introduction to the true complexity of what was happening on the ground. And if this story is anything to go by, what was happening was tons of corruption, graft, and outright cooperation with the enemy by some of the U.S.'s supposed allies. The story here paints the war as mere background, or rather, opportunity, for the well-positioned to make a lot of money. The actual outcome is never in doubt, and the parallels to present-day adventures in Afghanistan are all-too easily made.

To be sure, this does not aspire to the heights that Matterhorn did, but it's just as strikingly authentic, and just as ultimately depressing in its portrayal of the futility of American efforts. The characters all come completely to life, the dialogue rings true, and the few action scenes are loaded with tension (there's a great section where Rider joins a small group to kidnap an NVA courier deep in the jungle). The one quibble I have with the story is that as things build to a climax at the end, Rider and several other main characters exhibit shocking naivete with regard to the likely effect of their harassment of the story's villain. But even that is eventually sorted out in a fairly satisfying manner. There are certainly hundreds, if not thousands, of novels written about the Vietnam War -- this one belongs in the short list of ones that are well worth your time.
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on 22 September 2012
I enjoyed this book mostly because it gave me a real insight into what it was like in Vietnam during the war. The plot was also engaging and believable, (in spite of the sometimes extraordinary events involved). The main story is told as a flashback to the daughter of the main character's commanding officer who was killed during the conflict. Rider (the narrator) is an intelligence officer who became deeply embroiled in the corruption and treachery that was rife at the time. The setting was vividly portrayed and the cultures of the various groups (like the Montagnards - who I had no idea even existed) were clearly described in a way that enabled me to appreciate what the US soldiers must have gone through. On the downside, I found the characters a bit thin and difficult to visualize, largely I think, because the author doesn't give us much insight into them except through conversation which was so rapid-fire and full of slang and acronyms that I often found it hard to follow. Otherwise, I would have given this book five stars.
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on 13 November 2012
I wasn't really expecting much more than a thoughtful war novel, but this greatly exceeded my expectations. It's a thoughtfully written description of a tour of duty in a small village camp. There is a story but the book is really about the characters, the politically driven situation they collectively and individually find themselves in, and the country and its peoples. The characters are sympathetically drawn.

The book covered some aspects that I had been ignorant of - in particular the ethnic and cultural groups who were caught up in this period of Vietnam's history, as well as the military factions, and the complicated and in some cases internecine nature of the relations and interactions between them. The greed and opportunism that is so often found taking advantage of conflicts, making the misery suffered by peoples in war zones only the more acute, is also an integral part of the picture.

It's unusual that I like American authors - there is something about the writing style that I just don't get on with, with some notable exceptions. I need not have worried - the language and style is clear, concise, vivid, expressive and never gets in the way of the story. In a book involving US military forces some military jargon is inevitable but is never used for the sake of it and is generally explained or self-explanatory so it is not intrusive. This is a very well written book and is written with an obvious feeling for the place and for the events of that time. The descriptions were such that a number of times I felt as if I was there beside the characters.

A very good book that portrays with realism the complexities of that place and time.
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on 13 September 2012
Found this book on offer, and having read numerous books regarding the Vietnam conflict I decided to give it a go....very glad I did so.

The author tells a tale very well, you get a very descriptive storyof how life was during the conflict. It is told as a fiction novel, and keeps you turning the page wanting to know what happens in the mystery being told. It is not an all action war story, there is the odd piece of fighting for those who enjoy those types of books, but the story revolves around the stupidity of the conflict, and the over whelming corruption by all involved, and you are left with a feeling of anger as you realise that the soldiers there were fighting a lost cause from the start, and were never going to succeed.

When I came to the end I found to my surprise that the book seems to be based on actual events, all the more frustrating as you realise the story was actually true and the unbelievable events and corruption actually happened!

Even if your not into action books give this a go as it is more a mystery/thriller than a guys action book.
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on 13 January 2013
I really enjoyed reading this book. I was looking for a hard-edged Vietnam story with a bit more to it than just blood and gore and this delivers.

Set on a base away from the major fighting the book has enough shooting and killing to keep most blood thirsty readers happy, but it also has an intriguing insight into the confused politics of the situation. Although the base is fairly quiet day to day, the area is a busy through-route for North Vietnamese soldiers on their way to the front line, and the US believe the area is being used to grow drugs essential to the North's war finances. The Colonel in charge of the base is caught in an impossible position with barely a ramshackle force at his disposal, his hands tied as his local South Vietnamese allies seem to play both sides for financial gain.

A great mix of action, subterfuge, politics, sacrifice and a love triangle, I'm not sure you could ask for more.

Have already recommended it to my friends and family.
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on 10 February 2013
A brilliant book which I felt must be based more on fact than fiction. An amazing account of the situation in Vietnam with the Vietcong, South Vietnamese, Americans and local Montagnard people and all the corruption and double dealing that took place. I found it absolutely fascinating.
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on 13 September 2012
Having recently been to Vietnam and read a few factual books about the place I have started reading a few works of fiction about the war.If you have read the Fire in the Lake by Frances Fitzgerald you will be aware of the massive corruption that took place during the conflict. Red Flags carries this on into fiction,though the author tells us at the end of the book that it is mainly based on fact, though names and a few place names were altered.A gripping read that leaves you not wanting the story to end.Well written and a few laugh out loud moments ,though whether the author meant this or not I'm not sure.
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on 1 February 2013
Very well written, and as I read it, I felt that the writer knows Asian culture and their mindset - as i live in Asia much of the year. It gives you a whole new insight into the reasons for the VN war and others - especially those that the USA has been involved with - they are all about making money, and people's lives are irrelevant. It was only near the end that I realised why it was so realistic - it is a true story. HIGHLY recommended.
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on 8 October 2012
Took this Kindle version on my holidays to Africa, a very good read. I lived through the 60's and the 6'o'clock war. Having read Matterhorn etc, this book emphasises how ham strung the most powerful nation in the world was by the corruption endemic in Viet Nam. A seriously good, if gruesome, read. Highly recommended.
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on 28 October 2012
on a par with Mstterrhorn although you see an American soldiers experience of Viet Nam from a different perspective. Like Matterhorn the quality of the prose come through in both charichterisation and detail. They dovetail into each other to give the reader a feeling of almost being there.
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