Email this review


 The brutal, harrowing tale of a gutsy young Marine's fortitude in the face of mortal peril: Borden, a savvy student of the military scene (Easter Day 1941, etc.), bases his third novel on an actual incident the USMC would doubtless prefer to forget. Posted as a road guide on the last night of a training exercise in California's Mojave Desert, a nameless lance corporal is accidentally left behind when his fellow Marines return to their base at Twentynine Palms. By dawn, the junior NCO realizes he's been forgotten and sets out on his own to cover the 19 or so miles of barren, waterless badlands that separate him from safety. As the unknown Marine soldiers on under the pitiless glare of a noonday sun, his dehydrated, blistered body begins to fail, and his mind wanders to the salty drill sergeant who told him: ``War is when the poor boys dance.'' Further along his forced march, the castaway starts identifying with Marine Corps heroes who had rendezvous with death on killing fields from WW I's Belleau Wood through Vietnam and on peacekeeping missions in equatorial Africa and the Middle East. More nightmare than daydream, focused on tradition rather than definitive history, these episodic reveries help the lance corporal endure the worst hours of his hellish ordeal. Toward the feverish end of his day, those who marched and fell before him close ranks to escort the doomed warrior who was never bloodied to whatever corner of a better world awaits the souls of Marines slain in battle. Borden's virtuoso performance here decries the wicked waste of meaningless combat and celebrates the human spirit's invincibility in dire circumstances. A work of fiction that awakens memories of William Styron's The Long March.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-89141-545-9
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Presidio/Random
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1995