The Vietnam War is starting to deliver: Herr's non-fictional Dispatches found the peculiar character of writing that this creepy conflict seems to require--and Hasford, in a first, autobiographical novel, husks it right down to the kernel. The narrator, a Marine combat correspondent nicknamed "Joker," does his hitch during the Tet offensive and is involved in the out-and-out decimation of Hue. One street operation involves a girl VC sniper who picks off haft of Joker's patrol: the only way to get her is to have a tank blast the building down from beneath her. When she's finally found and killed, one of the grunts cuts off her feet and drops them into a plastic shopping bag full of feet: souvenirs. Hasford's artistry makes this incredible event seem almost logical, and again and again he does it--a rat-burning party, an ambush near Khe Sanh--the horror and noise seems to stick in your throat like something sharp but inevitable. Only the redemption of "short-time"--days left to go in this hell--keeps the grunts sane, a terrible and hopeless clock. A terse spitball of a book, fine and real and terrifying, that marks a real advance in Vietnam war literature.