Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Drug Deal Gone Wrong in a Novel Done Right

Dog Soldiers
by Robert Stone
Published by Mariner Books
4 Out of 5 Stars

I began this book thinking it would be about the Vietnam War told from the perspective of an in-country reporter named John Converse. I came to find that, while a few early scenes were set in Vietnam and Converse did occasionally reflect on his time spent there, the focus of the book is a drug deal that goes wrong--horribly, horribly wrong. However, I still loved the book. It has a bit of a Pulp Fiction or Guy Ritchie film feel to it. None of the characters are likable people and they have the moral sensibilities of a gnat, but they're entertaining and a reflection of the shifting values embodied by the time period (when asked why he tried to move heroin from Vietnam to the U.S., Converse replies, "You hear stories over there. They say everybody does it. Being there fucks up your perspective"). Like most Vietnam novels, Dog Soldiers is liberally sprinkled with black humor for those who can find and appreciate it. I would read the novel all over again just for Converse's remembrance of being fragmentation-bombed in Cambodia--a particularly harrowing and well-written scene of self-realization. 

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