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 A comic eruption that tells the story of a group of left-behind US officers during the Vietnam War's final days: this first novel by a syndicated cartoonist is an able effort, distinguished by unexpected insight. Political cartoonist and Viet vet Danziger sketches a sweeping panorama of the doomed Phouc Vinh firebase, counterpointing the myth of the invincible US against its fallible, laughable, horrible reality. Hapless Lieutenant Kit is the mushy center of a rotting military society, promoted beyond his capabilities, useless in war and awkward in human relations. Representing the blindness of the official line is Kit's real-estate developer father, who swallows the fabricated ``Vietnamization'' policy and forces Kit to embark on a ludicrous scheme to build the first malls the country has ever seen. As more and more Americans depart, Phouc Vinh becomes a shell--protected by marvelous technology that doesn't work, inhabited by asylum-quality personalities. There's Lt. Stevenson, who takes over writing Lt. Kit's letters to his father; Lt. Toomer, who witnesses war crimes, turns paranoid, and commits an even worse crime; the pathetic Major Bedford, who finds a kind of self-worth by falling in love with the oblivious Lt. Kit; and Major Dow, who watches over Kit, and ultimately dies saving him in the bang-up battle that destroys Phouc Vinh. Full of the hysteria that breeds dark laughter, laced with insights that bite like strychnine, Danziger's debut novel proves once again that Vietnam--both as a genre and as a wound in the American psyche--shows no signs of going away.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-385-41866-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1991