SLOW WALK IN A SAD RAIN by John P. McAfee

SLOW WALK IN A SAD RAIN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A first novel, set at a Special Forces camp in the Laotian jungle, that tries to do for Vietnam what Vonnegut did for WW II, though McAfee's style--one-sentence paragraphs displayed ad nauseam--is merely choppy instead of stoic or absurdist. The narrator copes with the daily grind at ``A Camp'' alongside the likes of ``Shotgun,'' ``Black Spaghetti,'' ``Quiet Voice'' and ``Spec.7 Thompson.'' McAfee effectively evokes a sense of jungle rot--leeches, mildew, triple-canopy jungle and its tribulations--but the episodic structure is never quite fully shaped. Instead, we get pastiches, self-conscious allusions to other Vietnam literature, and instances that either describe the daily grind or try to establish a Wizard of Oz-like sense of absurdity. Shotgun, for instance, promises to kill Colonel Black, who's a compendium of everything that's wrong with the service, but the Colonel, shooting at Shotgun, manages to set off a mine and kill himself instead. Because such characters are cartoon-like rather than rounded, a reader is not sure whether to laugh or shrug at such cosmic justice. Dog turds in another instance are really ``personnel sensors''; such material is full of promise, but McAfee is unable to milk it in the way that a Vonnegut would have managed. Instead, a tepid heroin subplot involving (what else?) Air America, plus other scenes--ranging from lounging in the ``Teamhouse,'' a ``whorehouse-bar-laundry,'' to an attempt to carry the grievously wounded Spaghetti to safety--result in a string of absurdist moral questions (``Is the universe ruled by Bozo the clown?''). Purportedly autobiographical, but likely to be of interest only to hard-core Vietnam archivists. As fiction, it's well- meaning, occasionally original, but mostly derivative.

Pub Date: Feb. 17th, 1993
ISBN: 0-446-51642-2
Page count: 256pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1992