THE BARKING DEER by Jonathan Rubin


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A look-see at the folk who first fought the Vietnamese War, by one who was there and repents his long silence. It's the story of a group of eight U.S. Special Forces men, under the command of Captain Yancy, who have the unenviable task of gaining the trust and assistance of the people of Buon Yun -- a little village in the highlands -- mainly by gifts of rice, weapons, and shiny uniforms. The Americans get on well enough with the mountain people who love the medic's shiny-colored pills which they string on beads around their necks. But the VC decapitation of heads of neighboring tribesmen, who cooperated with the GIs, make them wary -- not to mention the everpresent fear that U.S. planes might accidentally sever the ropes that tie the sun, stars, and earth together. What the villagers really want is to be left alone, free of the hated North and South Vietnamese, but this dream is both literally and symbolically smashed during a VC night attack in which a village is functionally wiped out -- mainly due to a slight miscalculation of an American pilot who drops his bombs on the wrong set of people. The novel's purpose is to clearly demonstrate the evil inherent in ""innocence"" and ""good intentions""; but it does not have much good to say about the callous, dogmatic officials who ran the war from the safety of the North or of the corrupt military bureaucracy which refused to fight in the South. Occasionally the anger turns to a patronizing ""Look Dick. See Jane run."" But perhaps the time (1964) is now distant enough to spawn a first serious, commercial success of that dirty war so far only popularly recognized by the cheap Green Berets.

Pub Date: March 18th, 1974
Publisher: Braziller