FLOAT by David Eyre


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Sometimes searing, other times giddy and flippant, Eyre's florid first novel views the river war in Vietnam, and the home front in Honolulu and Seattle, through a glass of bourbon spiked with LSD. We first meet Lieutenant Dubecheck at the conclusion of a routinely revolting patrol of the Mekong Delta--where his men flush swimming Viet Cong with hand grenades. As these powerful opening chapters limn the "riverine theater" in putrid detail, the book seems ready to join the genre novels about Vietnam. But Eyre, a veteran, has his eye on models of a rarer sort: Tim O'Brien's Going After Cacciato and Stephen Wright's Meditations in Green. And Dubecheck has the requisite ironic-caustic voice for literary duty: "He peered into the prisoner's face with a flashlight, looking at him with the goonlike curiosity one feels around a celebrity. . .I have met the enemy and his breath stinks." After the taut account of the night patrol, Part Two offers a long, loopy narrative of life at base camp (a drunken riot) and on an R-and-R run to Honolulu that turns into an illegal visit stateside. Dressed out in a black wig and sporting his prisoner's Czech pistol, Dubecheck attends an antiwar rally, takes drugs, and almost loses his virginity to an obligatory "hippie chick." In Part Three, he escorts a bloodthirsty congressman out on a patrol and, in a million-dollar p.r. stunt attended by the top brass, directs an assault that results in a body count of one napalmed pig. The best moments here hold their own with the classics of the war-is-weird genre; the last half, however, is a disappointment. The uneven but powerful result makes for an exhilarating read, though the reader may wake groggy and disoriented when it's done.

ISBN: 385-26685-5
Publisher: Doubleday
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