Monday, March 24, 2008

If I Die in a Combat Zone by Tim O’Brien

I had tremendous respect for The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien. This earlier semi-biographic novel walks through the same rice paddies, NCO tents, and chopper rides to safety. Like O’Brien’s other works there’s a lot of meta here. The author and the narrative itself both exist inside the narrative. There’s an ongoing dialog between reader and writer which forms a subtext for the story.

At its heart, the novel is an anti-war message by one of those who knows best what the human costs are and how the fog of war can obscure both moral judgment and clear definition of purpose. When you’re head down in the trenches, or picking up the arm of a friend just killed by a child’s grenade, it’s hard to know think much about Marshall Doctrine.

This work is not as powerful or as sophisticated as The Things They Carried. It seems to have been a warmup piece. But it was engaging, short, easy to read, and contained at least a few things which had not yet been said about the most over-written war in recent memory.

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