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A grim and unrelieved story of escape, gripping, unrelenting in its pitiless exposure of men's fight against the worst in themselves. The time- during Japanese occupation of the Philippines; the place- an unidentified island, a jungle into which seven men parachute from a crippled plane. Nothing links the men but common danger, for their assignments are separate and mysterious and actually unimportant to the story, their mutual suspicion and growing antagonisms, and the physical needs of food, water- and freedom from fear. This last is all pervading -- and haunts the reader to the end. There is nothing remotely appealing about the men themselves. Murphy, possible leader, dies a possibly violent death following fatal injuries in his jump. Mills, central figure in his search for self esteem, defeats his own ends, but his mental gyrations are extraordinarily well handled. Jenks, who might have killed Murphy, is a mystery- to Mills, to the others, perhaps to himself, but only in Jenks does the reader get any glimmer of emotional pull. May goes mad and dies at Mills' hands. Stone, whose rescue gives Mills momentary stature, is the first to be killed by the Japs, who eventually capture the group, just at the point when escape seems possible. And Tim, chosen leader, but oddly unable to cope with the challenge, is tortured, horribly- and through gruelling pages. At the end, Mills and Jenks, linked by common performance and mutual understanding, escape with the aid of Filipinos at the end, into darkness. An amazing story, but an exhausting one to experience. A fresh revelation of the Pacific war years- remote and yet integral to war itself.

Pub Date: Sept. 18th, 1950
Publisher: Crowell