11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Wow! One helluva book,
This review is from: War of the Rats: A Novel (Mass Market Paperback)
WAR OF THE RATS is a superb novel of combat. Combat in a theater of World War II that most Americans, dismally familiar only with the fighting role of the US in the Pacific and Europe, know little about - the Russian Front. Specifically, in this book, the Battle of Stalingrad at the end of 1942.
Chief Master Sergeant Vasily Zaitsev ("The Hare") is an expert sniper in the 62nd Army, that force of the Red Army desperately maintaining a toehold in Stalingrad, under siege by the German 6th Army. Zaitsev is so good at his job that he is ordered to establish a sniper school. One of his students is Tania Chernova, an American woman of Russian descent fighting to avenge the execution of her grandparents at the hands of the Nazis. The graduates of The Hare's training become so proficient at killing Germans that the morale of the 6th Army's front-line troops is seriously threatened. Zaitsev becomes a Red Army hero and a winner of the Order of Lenin. As a counter, the Reich's most expert sniper, SS Colonel Heinz Thorvald ("The Headmaster"), is flown from Germany into the Stalingrad battle. His orders - to find and kill The Hare.
There is no superlative too extravagant to describe this book. At 470 pages in paperback, I absorbed it at one sitting on a flight from Washington, DC to Los Angeles. Zaitsev, Chernova and Thorvald were all actual combatants in Stalingrad. Their roles, as well as the movements of both the German and Russian forces in the battle as a whole, are facts lifted from historical sources researched by the author, David Robbins. The insight Robbins gives the reader into the skills and training of the military sniper is absolutely riveting. The action is gritty and realistic. The characters are finely drawn.
One measure of a novel's excellence is its ability to inspire the reader to delve further into the subject. I've just added to my Wish List a history of the Stalingrad siege.