Carl Melcher Goes to Vietnam

Carl Melcher Goes to Vietnam

4.0 8
by Paul Clayton
     
 

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Sent to Vietnam after being drafted, Carl makes friends with both the black and white members of his company in spite of racial tensions and learns harrowing truths about life and death when his optimism proves false. Carl Melcher Goes to Vietnam was a finalist at the 2001 Frankfurt eBook Awards, along with works by Joyce Carol Oates and David McCullough.See more details below

Overview

Sent to Vietnam after being drafted, Carl makes friends with both the black and white members of his company in spite of racial tensions and learns harrowing truths about life and death when his optimism proves false. Carl Melcher Goes to Vietnam was a finalist at the 2001 Frankfurt eBook Awards, along with works by Joyce Carol Oates and David McCullough.

Editorial Reviews

Marc Leepson
What sets this novel apart is Melcher's voice. Clayton portrays Carl Melcher as a mild-mannered naif -- a guy who, to his bafflement, is constantly buffeted by life's big currents. "Things just happen to me," Melcher says, "as if I have no say, and then I react." That is a far cry from most first-person war novel protagonists, who tend to be jaded iconoclasts who make things happen to other people.
The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Clayton offers a solid albeit familiar account of the horrors of war in his debut, a Vietnam coming-of-age novel that tracks the fortunes of a young man from Philadelphia named Carl Melcher through his difficult tour. The first half of the book remains fairly static as Melcher drops out of college, ends up in the service and draws a relatively benign assignment away from the fighting, allowing Clayton to develop the various stock characters in Melcher's squad. The action heats up when Melcher begins to go out on patrol, then turns white hot around the time of the Tet offensive as the quiet, affable protagonist goes through a series of tense but predictable close calls. When Melcher falls in love with a local Vietnamese girl, the novel almost breaks from genre formula, but Clayton comes closer to innovation during the closing chapters after Melcher is wounded and mulls the possibility of self-mutilation in a Japanese hospital to keep from going back into battle as his tour winds down. Clayton's simple prose remains balanced and effective throughout, but the novel has far too many familiar scenes, from the obligatory subplot about an experienced GI who gets killed just before his tour ends to the predictable infighting among squad members and some stereotypical material about clueless officers. Clayton's strong character writing carries the book, though, and he gets mileage from underplaying Melcher's reaction to the daily horrors. Agent, Jay Acton Literary Agency. (July) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In 1968, 18-year-old draftee Carl Melcher has been sent to Vietnam. An undersized, naive loner and budding intellectual, he confronts the unreal existence of violence, drugs, and racial hostilities at a firebase where danger is only a few yards away. Carl and his buddies just want to get through their year on duty, while their gung-ho company commander wants to attack and kill the enemy. This is a fast-paced but curious narrative: while there is violence, it is largely bloodless, even dispassionate, which makes the events somewhat surreal. And there is absolutely no swearing, however mild, which is totally improbable. Still, the characters are well drawn, and the reader will get a good sense of a young man's daily existence in unimaginable circumstances. Clayton served in the Fourth Infantry Division in 1968, so it is fair to assume that his debut novel, previously self-published as an e-book, is at least semiautobiographical. For larger collections.-Robert Conroy, Warren, MI Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A young GI goes to fight in Vietnam, in an originally self-published first novel. Carl Melcher dislikes army life from the start but after a while comes to depend on its traditions and routines. A quiet and somewhat bookish kid from Philadelphia, Carl was drafted when he broke up with his girlfriend, flunked out of the state university, and lost his college exemption. After basic and infantry training on the West Coast, he shipped out with the 4th Division in 1968 and landed in Pleiku Province in South Vietnam. Like everyone else in B Company, Carl is literally counting the days (365 of them, to be exact) until his tour of duty ends and he can go home. Not quite as weird as M*A*S*H, Company B has its share of eccentrics and characters: Gene-the-Doc, the company medic, is a conscientious objector who turns Carl on to Hermann Hesse, while Carl's squad leader Ron preaches that the war is a plot to rid Asia and America of their surplus populations. After a relatively cushy assignment at base camp, Company B gets sent into "the boondocks," where jungle patrols, mortar bombardments, and sniper attacks are the order of the day. Later, posted to guard a floating bridge in a quiet provincial town, Carl comes to know the Vietnamese and falls in love with a village girl named Chantal. Clayton has a good feel for the mundane basics of army life-the paperwork, petty rivalries, endless succession of eventless days broken by sudden eruptions of chaos-and he writes de profundis from the perspective of the troops for whom the war is a daily chore without any overriding strategy or meaning. Although he survives, Carl is essentially unchanged at the end and exhibits no real emotions save the relief thatcomes at the end of the day. Intriguing but flat: Clayton, whose debut was a 2001 Frankfurt e-book Award Finalist, paints a portrait of external features and invests them with little by way of depth, development, or nuance. Agent: Jay Acton/Theta Publishing Management

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781468130997
Publisher:
CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date:
12/24/2011
Pages:
228
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.52(d)

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