One step forward in the fledgling art
of the Vietnam War novel
KIRKUS REVIEWS, November 1, 1978

    THE SHORT-TIMERS (Harper & Row).  Gustav Hasford captures the matter-of-fact horror and endless noise in this terse spitball of a book--fine and real and terrifying.

    The Vietnam War is starting to deliver:  Herr's non-fictional Dispatches found the peculiar character of writing that this creepy conflict seems to require--and Hasford, in a first, autobiographical novel, husks it right down to the kernel.  The narrator, a Marine combat correspondent nicknamed "Joker," does his hitch during the Tet offensive and is involved in the out-and-out decimation of Hue.  One street operation involves a girl VC sniper who picks off half of Joker's patrol:  the only way to get her is to have a tank blast the building down from beneath her.  When she's finally found and killed, one of the grunts cuts off her feet and drops them into a plastic shopping bag full of feet:  souvenirs.  Hasford's artistry makes this incredible even seem almost logical, and again and again he does it--a rat-burning party, an ambush near Khe Sanh--the horror and noise seems to stick in your throat like something sharp but inevitable.  Only the redemption of "short-time"--days left to go in this hell--keeps the grunt sane, a terrible and hopeless clock.  A terse spitball of a book, fine and real and terrifying, that marks a real advance in Vietnam war literature.

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