Customer Reviews for

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War

Average Rating 4
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

62 out of 62 people found this review helpful.

Douglas Kidd Alpha 1 - 4 1969

A friend from our company passed the book along to me . Day one : I sat down approx, 1:30 pm . When I next looked at the clock it was midnite ! I was in the same battallion ,only a differnt company and the same year as Mr Marlantes. I was a machine gunner. ...
A friend from our company passed the book along to me . Day one : I sat down approx, 1:30 pm . When I next looked at the clock it was midnite ! I was in the same battallion ,only a differnt company and the same year as Mr Marlantes. I was a machine gunner. By the middle of the first chapter I was putting faces from our platoon to the characters he was writing about . I could not put the book down and when I did it was front and foremost on my mind. It took me back there ! Our companies crisscrossed each other so I was in the same terrain , situations etc . The language he wrote it in is exactly the way we talked, the problems were there, the jungle, leeches, monsoons, no resupplies because the helicopters couldn't fly . We went , I believe , for a 5 day stretch with no food or good water due to torrential rains in the mtns and jungles. He also explained about why we had to go that extra mile when the company was moving and everyone was unimaginably worn to the bone . He described how the " upper echelon " worked according to thier desires not knowing the reality of the jungles . He clearly defined the lines between the " lifers " and the grunts out there on the perimeter who were given no knowledge about anything that was going on only what was required for them to do ...or die trying. When I finished the book , I felt as tho I had just gotten back home . My emotions and nerves were very close to the surface , I had buried them deeply many years ago . I'd like to thank Mr Malantes for the most magnificant read I have ever experianced about being " in country " and the Quang Tri Providance .

posted by dkidd on March 24, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

3 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

Something Missing - An Ending

I read through the professional and reader reviews of this book after I read it myself. I have read many Vietnam fiction and nonfiction books and..
I can agree with the good descriptions of the local area and battle information. What I have a problem with is the endin...
I read through the professional and reader reviews of this book after I read it myself. I have read many Vietnam fiction and nonfiction books and..
I can agree with the good descriptions of the local area and battle information. What I have a problem with is the ending. So what happens at the end? Things just carry on and Mellas grows as a person?

It feels like Marlantes got tired and just stopped. I think there is much more to say but we will never know because it stops short of providing a good conclusion or even preparing the reader for another volume.

posted by readbookssmb on August 24, 2010

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  • Posted March 24, 2010

    Douglas Kidd Alpha 1 - 4 1969

    A friend from our company passed the book along to me . Day one : I sat down approx, 1:30 pm . When I next looked at the clock it was midnite ! I was in the same battallion ,only a differnt company and the same year as Mr Marlantes. I was a machine gunner. By the middle of the first chapter I was putting faces from our platoon to the characters he was writing about . I could not put the book down and when I did it was front and foremost on my mind. It took me back there ! Our companies crisscrossed each other so I was in the same terrain , situations etc . The language he wrote it in is exactly the way we talked, the problems were there, the jungle, leeches, monsoons, no resupplies because the helicopters couldn't fly . We went , I believe , for a 5 day stretch with no food or good water due to torrential rains in the mtns and jungles. He also explained about why we had to go that extra mile when the company was moving and everyone was unimaginably worn to the bone . He described how the " upper echelon " worked according to thier desires not knowing the reality of the jungles . He clearly defined the lines between the " lifers " and the grunts out there on the perimeter who were given no knowledge about anything that was going on only what was required for them to do ...or die trying. When I finished the book , I felt as tho I had just gotten back home . My emotions and nerves were very close to the surface , I had buried them deeply many years ago . I'd like to thank Mr Malantes for the most magnificant read I have ever experianced about being " in country " and the Quang Tri Providance .

    62 out of 62 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2010

    I've waited 40 years for someone to get it right

    I spent 22 months in the same areas as the author during my service as a Marine in RVN. I have never really talked about it much in part because I didn't feel listeners could really understand what I was trying to say or understand what I felt. Vietnam veterans now have an interpreter and a spokesperson. Thank you Lt. Marlantes.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 27, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Surviving the Fog of War

    This is a novel for the ages. I could not put this book down. It is quite simply one of the best I have read in my lifetime (although this is a work of fiction, I am still using Michael Kerr's 'Dispatches' as benchmark). Marlantes has created a masterpiece in capturing the terror, the heroics, and the grind of Marines in combat. This novel grabs you into the dense weight of warfare in Vietnam (after Tet offensive) and the author's writing is like a phosphorescent flare in the fog of war. All I can say is, "There it is."

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2010

    Matterhorn

    Karl Malantes brilliantly examines the nature of war in his book Matterhorn. This is not just another horror story of Vietnam, and while it does have plenty of horror, it also has so much more. This is the first real book to examine race relations in the military during the conflict with any real honesty, and the rising tensions between whites and blacks provides an engaging side plot to the main action. As the characters mature in their views and strength of spirit over the course of the novel, one really begins to understand what Vietnam was, while at the same time realizing that you can never really understand. Matterhorn is gripping, honest, horrifying, and ultimately a masterpiece.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2010

    An incredible book

    Although this book is reviewed as a "guy" book, I (a female) found it to be Intense, powerful, compelling, compassionate, well written and just an incredible book. I did not want to put it down.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 6, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Matterhorn

    Being a Viet-Nam vet, this book came through about as it was over there! Plot was great, no flaws in wording relating to the service, country or the military wording. The book was excellent reading. Took me about 1 1/2 days. Hard to put down. Great read. Scale of 1-10, I give it a 10. That's high!!!!
    Thank You!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 4, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent novel of Marines in combat, and a classic tale of Vietnam

    For me, Matterhorn was a page-turner, written by a Marine officer who obviously knows both the terrain of combat leadership and the brutal demands placed on those who would aspire to be Marine infantrymen. As a former Marine officer and combat veteran of Vietnam, including a big operation in the mountains of western I Corps, I found the character of Waino Mellas to be well-drawn and authentic. Also, let me assure the reader, the tough issues of race that the author describes were real, and we as a country have come a long way since Vietnam toward resolving those problems, compared to where we were then. Marine officers like Mellas did the heavy lifting to calm the turmoil and racial tension, trying to do the right thing. I also liked the way Lieutenant Mellas evolved from being a cherry lieutenant along for the ride, to a more complex, subtle facilitator of events behind the scenes. This is a great read! This novel will be remembered as one of the classics written about Marines in combat during the Vietnam War. Habusix, former Captain US Marine Corps

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 26, 2010

    Beautifully written book of historical importance that provides exciting plot, compelling characters and emotional involvement

    As a woman who graduated from college around the time that Matterhorn takes place, this book has helped me to understand a little about what the men my age who went into the military were facing. Marlantes' ability to portray characters and their relationships with each other is commendable - I really want to know more about what happened to them after the book ended! In addition his treatment of relevant issues of the times - the Executive Branch's failure to comprehend what was going on at the battlefront and to make rational decisions on how to support the troops, racism as played out in the military, the incredible toll on the soldiers taken by this type of warfare, etc. - provide a strong background of realism -- and accuracy. This book is very hard to put down......

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Vietnam Vet Tells Us a Story We All Need to Hear

    As a history teacher I've studied and taught about the Vietnam War. I watched it happen on TV; I had friends serve there, two died; I know all of the stats, chronology, and SNAFU's that have been written about. I think I even sense a tiny taste of the visceral fear and anger, as well as the importance of comradery. I read this book over Memorial Day Weekend, purposely, and am filled with awe at the tenacity of our soldiers, sick at heart that any human must find him/herself in a situation like this, and tremendously angry that we all don't try harder to end war. It is all too clear that the military-industrial complex is still running this country. Enough about that -- the book is hard to put down. It presents characters that are quite complex and believable; it touches on just about every aspect of the Vietnam War that should be touched on: fragging officers, military leaders who gain promotions only through battlefield action, race relations, poor supply, life/death decisions mid-battle, etc., all without gratuitously graphic detail of injury and death, but still believable within the framework of the novel, and without definitively taking sides on some of the issues. Marlantes was a Marine in Vietnam during the war, but I honestly don't know whether I'd encourage a friend who is a Vietnam vet to read this book. He doesn't have to. But, after you read it, you might want to have a frank conversation with a vet, and think long and deeply about how we, as humans, can allow our current concept of power to include war and killing "others" to continue.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 24, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Something Missing - An Ending

    I read through the professional and reader reviews of this book after I read it myself. I have read many Vietnam fiction and nonfiction books and..
    I can agree with the good descriptions of the local area and battle information. What I have a problem with is the ending. So what happens at the end? Things just carry on and Mellas grows as a person?

    It feels like Marlantes got tired and just stopped. I think there is much more to say but we will never know because it stops short of providing a good conclusion or even preparing the reader for another volume.

    3 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2010

    Wow

    A crazy beautiful book. I couldn't stop reading it. I was kinda bothered by the end but then I think there could never be a "good" ending to this story. It is what is is and Karl Marlantes brings you to that understanding. Now on my list of favorites.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 17, 2010

    I was there and it is all true down to the mud on my boots.

    I was a Corpsman with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion/5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division 1967 to 1969. This book is exactly what took place, how we talked, what we felt, how scared we were, how we bleed and how some of us died. The characters are as real as the guys in my outfit who lived and died in the jungle of Vietnam back in 1967 till I came home in 1969. I can smell the blood and feel the pain of my fellows brothers in arms.The author was right on the money with his portrayal of what it was like to be in a Marine rifle platoon in the middle of HELL.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Vietnam as experienced on the ground

    This is the story from the soldier on the ground's perspective. No overarching themes, analysis, politics or in-depth tactics or equipment discussions. It is the pure story of the racking difficulties, frustration, terror and boredom experience by the average front-line trooper. All delivered in well written insightful prose. I could not put it down. The impact on reading is felt not expressed.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A worthy addition to the literature on the Vietnam War

    Karl Marlantes' book on Vietnam was well-worth the 30-year effort he apparently put into writing it. Remarkably, for a book that developed over such a long period, the plot holds together coherently and the development of the main characters is seamless and gripping.

    While focused on the Vietnam War era, this book is relevant and timely to readers today in its portrayal of the confusion and rage that are felt by front line soldiers (I am guessing, I have no war experience) in reaction to the decisions of their superiors, the magnifying effect that war has on emotions and relationships, the loneliness of young soldiers far from home, and the difficulty that young, naive men have in coping with the actions that they must take in battle. Without any strong moral guidance around them, the young men in this story have difficulty deciding between right and wrong: the tragedy is that when they make the wrong decision, the fact that they are in a war zone makes the results tragic and gruesome. The racial tensions of the 1970's provide an interesting backdrop to the story, as well as directly impacting the events of the story.

    The elements of the plot, the taking and re-taking of hills in a mountain range near the DMZ - one of which is nicknamed Matterhorn - keep all of these themes moving forward, draw the reader into the story, and in my case made me feel some of the same emotions as the characters: anger, futility, and sadness. The cleverly and compassionately described characters made my sadness all the more vivid when some of the best ones were killed.

    While reading the book I stayed alert for any signs that the story didn't proceed smoothly due to the long timespan over which it was written - but I didn't find any. The only inkling I had that Marlantes may have changed as a writer and a person over the years while he worked on the book is that the last paragraph reads like poetry: it's beautiful and somewhat ethereal writing, but fully grounded in the story. I'm not sure if Marlantes would have been capable of that kind of writing when he started out, but I'm glad he arrived there. The beauty of that chapter heightened my disappointment when I realized I had finished the book: the thick glossary of terms at the end had fooled me into thinking I had a few more chapters to go!

    Karl Marlantes, if you haven't sold the screen rights yet, make sure you sell them to someone who will do a good job with the movie!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2010

    Wow

    This book is absolutely astounding. I have never read a more heartfelt, amazing, but at the same time dramatically intense. The originality that has been compelled into this book is the best I've ever seen. Karl's first-hand knowledge, combined with a writing style that fits perfectly well creates a masterpiece. I agree that this book is destined to become a classic. Although there is intense violence and profanity, the book remains a wonderful work of historical fiction. The author seems to have combined a complex work of fiction with the entertaining simplicity that many desire. I love his discripitions of Vietnamese combat, the strain of walking through the rainforest, and the sad despair of a fallen character of that you have become to love.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2010

    matterhorn is an amazing book!

    matterhorn, an amazing story filled with believeable and strong characters. a story of vietnam and all it's ramifications, i highly recommend this book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 16, 2010

    A "must" read

    This may go down as a classic of it's genre and of books about that period; if it had been published 30 years ago it would easily stand with the other works that helped interpret and set perspective of the Viet Nam War.

    Very well fine flow to the narrative, well defined characters and clear situations and should be easy for even those without military experience to follow. This is men in combat, but more than what one would expect, it's full of humanity; verges into the poetic with one of the finest endings of anything i've read in quite some time. Excellent work.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Well-Crafted, Compelling Work

    Though this is a novel, clearly the author's experience is reflected in the story. This is one of the mroe compelling reads I can remember in some time. So much is packed into the text that it's impossible to imagine that only a few months have elapsed from beginning to end.

    There are parts of the book that can be very difficult to work through because of the violence, and it should not be read by those with weak stomachs. However, the difficulties facing a young officer in Vietnam are well-told throughout. Violence certainly is one, but so is the doubt, fear, loss of friends, loss of innocence, racial tension, disgust over order, lack of food, medical conditions, and the need to appear strong and intelligent to a host of men. As in real life, none of the characters are perfect and they all struggle with their own fear, vanity, and ambitions.

    This is not a book for those lookign for a "happy ending" but is an excellent read for those who want to know what it was like as a young man thrust into a leadserhip role in a jungle war.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Matterhorn - There it is...

    This is a great book! If you enjoy reading historical fiction, this one is a must read. It is well written with an originality and true picture of the reality of the war that few historical fictions possess. It will give you a new respect for those who fought in Viet Nam.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 18, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Matterhorn transports the reader to another time. A time of war and peace. A time when lack of support downplayed the ultimate sacrifice. A time when bravery was the rule, not the exception. A time to remember and celebrate the hero that cared.

    The Matterhorn is the tenth highest mountain in Switzerland. On July 14, 1865, seven people made the first ascent. Over 500 people have died climbing the mountain since then. Deaths are due to falls, inexperience, under estimating the mountain, bad weather and falling rocks.

    A hundred years later, the Marines of Bravo Company climbed a hill in Vietnam - code name Matterhorn. Falling hand grenades created a path of destruction among the climbing Marines. Inexperience prevailed in the form of a second lieutenant eager to prove his worth, get a medal and the command of his own company of Marines.

    A Battalion Commander under estimates the value of preserving the Matterhorn. Then he learns that a junior officer's instinct greatly exceeds the knowledge he acquired "in country". Bad weather surrounds the hill like a cloak of fear. Despite that, a helicopter pilot flies when he should not, to where he can't see, into an impossible landing zone. Falling shells from mortars compound the danger like an avalanche of devastation.

    Matterhorn explains the true significance of Semper Fi. Thought provoking passages about the menace of leeches, jungle rot, thirst, hunger and stoicism will fill the hearts and minds of a myraid of readers.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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