Kiefer’s ambitious novel about the heroics of one long-standing U.S. military family provides an exhilarating yet poignant answer to the question, â€œWhy do we fight?”
One can infer from the sprawling title of Kiefer’s book that if he hasn’t bitten off more than he can chew, he’s at least taken a very big bite indeed. The book aims to take on nearly a century and a half of U.S. military history as seen by the members of one family–the Walkers–and a supporting cast of dozens. Focusing on no fewer than five generations of military men and women, Indians either mentions or more fully explores some of the most harrowing moments in American warfare, from Custer’s last stand to the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the evacuation of Saigon to the shootout on the streets of Mogadishu (best known from the recent film â€œBlackhawk Down”). Though the author attempts much, he achieves much as well, and his potent epic is as exciting as it is thoroughly believable. Kiefer bases his fiction on his family history–like his characters, he comes from a long line of soldiers, and his firsthand experience of battle (and diplomacy) gives his novel a genuine look and feel. His open stance toward his subjects allows readers to forgive his slightly impolitic use of old-fashioned terms like â€œIndians” and â€œinfidels.” The author served in Vietnam, and the section of the book devoted to that conflict is both the longest and the most detailed. Woven between the tautly conceived battle scenes are sundry tales of intrigue, romance and family life that enhance the story’s depth and texture. Kiefer has mastered a number of writerly styles, and his renderings of the domestic sphere and the battlefield are equally truthful.
A brief history of American military heroism well told.