After a fast five years of local (Gulf Coast) skippering, wildlife work (his father is a game warden), and a college education, Eddie Czernik is expecting his naval commission and assignment to a marine biology lab in Bethesda. But red tape about his twenty-first birthday finds him in lower status training and, shortly thereafter, Vietnam-based--slightly queasy about his first dead body but extremely capable under fire. Aboard a Swift boat that is investigating civilian junks decoyed and deployed for Charlie's purposes, his only friend in the entire book is killed, Eddie himself is seriously wounded, and, he subsequently discovers, owes his rescue to a testy superior. Recuperation time takes him up to his birthday and that long-awaited commission but he prefers Swift duty and returns to the boat as its commanding officer. The characters are pigeon-holed at first sight, the fast pace skips over details, and as in Butterworth's Orders To Vietnam (with another marine biologist), this supposedly alert guy doesn't notice anything happening to the biosphere. Even those who prefer novels to newspaper reports will wonder what causes the change of direction.