This stands out of the welter of novels told against the background of war for its originality and distinction. Much of it is unpalatable, raw, distasteful, assuredly not for the thin skinned. But the impact is terrific -- and the whole picture of the guerrilla fighting in Burma emerges with its strange undertones of intense patriotism, its moments of almost spiritual aspiration, its violence and crudity. The handful of non commissioned officers assigned to the group of native scouts embrace various nationalities and types, and one by one their stories take form and meaning. Some of them are pretty low grade -- all of them seem real. Their commanding officer, Con, is almost a legendary figure; his merits outweigh his stubborn insistence on saving his men -- and Stilwell, Merrill, Wingate count him of their guild, unorthodox as a fighter, a campaigner, but irreplacable. All of the conflicting elements that made their contribution to the strange campaign and the building of the Burma road are reflected one way or another in an extraordinary and powerful book. I found it infinitely more mature, more vital than The Naked and the Deadm and less dependent on the sordid crudities of soldier life and speech for its end impression. Tom Chamales is a new name to me- a writer to watch.