Philosophy and intrigue mesh uneasily in Gottfredson’s convoluted but ultimately interesting novel of a Green Beret’s personal mission of vengeance.
Opening deep in the jungles of Vietnam, Gottfredson’s story focuses on Anderson, an experienced Green Beret coming up on the end of his time in country. Summoned to an unusual meeting with a colonel, Anderson is soon tasked with a mission that strikes him as necessary but distasteful: killing a fellow special operations soldier who has reportedly gone native while working against American interests. Anderson’s instincts tell him something is off, and readers will be unsurprised to find that his instincts are correct. Yet Anderson’s attempts to extricate himself from the operational fallout lead to the deaths of friends and colleagues. Once back in the States, Anderson puts his military skills and hunting prowess to work in planning and executing revenge for those he lost, all while pursuing a relationship with a beautiful young American woman he met in Thailand. Gottfredson tells his story with passion; many of the incidental details of place, military culture, and the tools involved seem to be drawn from his own background in Special Forces, and he uses these details with ease and authority. Anderson’s complexity as a character—his competency, calm under fire, and patriotism—is frequently contrasted with his philosophical examinations of identity and sense of purpose, which reference Kant and Sartre, among others. Yet his character and the plot in general are often undercut by unexpectedly shifting viewpoints and overdependence on flashbacks. It can be difficult to discern when and where a particular event takes place amid several nested flashbacks that happen without textual markers. This needless chronological confusion detracts from the overall reading experience, particularly when combined with florid dialogue and occasional information-dense exposition—particularly when discussing the minutiae of rifles and ammunition—that drain the story of tension. Only in the last few chapters, when Anderson enters a high-mountain confrontation with his enemies, does the narrative regain its momentum.
Though hampered by excessive verbiage and an overreliance on flashbacks, Gottfredson manages to overcome these flaws with a strong fundamental story and a complex protagonist.