COMPANY C by John Sack


The Real War in Iraq
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 A journalist's perfervid, impressionistic, and ultimately pointless take on an American armored unit that survived Desert Storm with a minimum of combat casualties. With all the finesse of an aging hipster trying to be cool, Sack (Fingerprint, 1983, etc.) offers surreal, helter-skelter perspectives on the experiences of a 64-man band of US Army tankers before, during, and after the Gulf War. C (as the author calls it) was deployed to Saudi Arabia early in 1991 and posted to the Iraqi border. Having smashed through a collapsing enemy front, the company fought in the Battle of Al Qarnain (one of the largest tank actions in military history) and moved on to further encounters in occupied Kuwait. Drawing on what appears to have been open access to his subjects, Sack occasionally comes up with a vivid, memorable vignette, e.g., the tank commander who machine-gunned enemy forces to the strains of Pink Floyd's ``Dogs of War'' and the sullen resistance of eager-to-engage crews to their ultracautious captain. But to keep his thin red story line lurching forward, the author relies mainly on textual gimmickry (``arrrr,'' ``kkkkk,'' ``tatatatata''), snatches of the banal lyrics from the rock music apparently favored by Generation X troopers, and anecdotes more notable for shock than depictive value. Nor does he retrieve the situation with a cast of stock characters (including a born-again sergeant as concerned with his men's immortal souls as with their lives) and low-rent epiphanies (``War, C had learned, wasn't glorious. War was dumb''). The after-action report: A dispensable entry in what will almost certainly become a crowded genre. Readers in search of a gritty grunt's-eye view of the Gulf War will be far better served by Carsten Stroud's estimable Iron Bravo (1995).

Pub Date: May 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-688-11281-1
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1995