The supposedly true story--Gayle Rivers is a pseudonym--of an ill-fated Green Beret-and-allies 1969 mission to infiltrate China and assassinate eleven Chinese and North Vietnamese military honchos assembled for a conference. And New Zealander narrator ""Rivers"" certainly sounds like the real thing: a creepily bloodthirsty professional soldier (""Weapons fascinated me"") who tallies the bodies with relish as the isolated, incompatible seven-man team sneaks through Laos (leeches, white-water fordings, Pathet Lao skirmishes) and finally reaches China, only to be given the ""abort"" signal--someone in Washington has changed his mind. That's when the fun really begins. ""When our people abandoned us, they forfeited responsibility for our future actions,"" so the bedraggled surviving members of the demoralized mission head back south on their own, perpetrating numerous My Lais (""In our overindulgence, we had wreaked havoc on this place""), being shot at by their own army, getting lost. Despite the nonstop blood-bone-and-gristle and Rivers' angry lashings-out at the heinous higher-ups (""they'll experiment with human beings like nobody's business""), this is by no means even a distant relative of the Vietnam-outrage combat books: too many self-justifications (""when they allowed their own children to get killed, I had nothing but contempt for them""), too much zest for the kill. But, for fans of easy-to-read, unadorned, hand-to-hand combat--a real treat.