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This should be looked upon as a documentary rather than a novel. The reader who expects any thread of plot development, no matter how slight, will be disappointed, for most of the characters die before the last page, in the tradition of Greek tragedy. Viewed as a war documentary, the setting the Finnish-Russian border where the Finns are fighting the Juggernaut of their historic Winter War (the fact that perforce they are Germany's allies has small bearing on the main issue), this makes a distinctive contribution to the overall war picture. The protagonists are an infantry battalion, a young age group, bewildered, resentful, bored, with almost no traditions of heroism or patriotism. Here and there, one or another emerges above the dead level of mediocrity- or worse. In the main they are an unsavory lot, viewing their enforced military service as a period of griping, cadging for food, drinking when rare opportunity offers, shirking duties and responsibilities when they can get away with it, insulting each other and- again when they can get away with it- their non-com and their junior officers. The enemy is the Russkie- not what he stands for. There is nothing elevating or inspiring about them. They are the ""unknown soldiers"" -- facing the borrors of an old fashioned, close combat, trench warfare sort of war, and accepting retreat and defeat as an inevitable, and perhaps salutary, aspect of it. The comparison that will be made is Plevier's Stalingrad. For this reader this book has none of the major proportions that gave that stature...A best seller in Finland, where everyone sees it as born out of their own frustrations, the best one can look for here is the role of another war documentary on a new front.

Pub Date: May 29th, 1957
Publisher: Putnam