BETTER TIMES THAN THESE by Winston Groom

BETTER TIMES THAN THESE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An ambitious war novel--Vietnam, 1966--that has its moments but misses in both large and small ways, mainly by being walleyed. The story begins with Bravo Company, Fourth Battalion, Seventh Cavalry embarking from the States and heading across the Pacific for the Far East. This long foreword introduces us to a very large cast of stereotypes who speak fearlessly in some of the least accurate dialect-writing since early O'Neill. Of these the only one who stands out and genuinely holds our interest is the villain, Lt. Brill, a rapist psychopath who eventually sets the climax in motion. Others are Lt. Kahn, the company commander, a Southern Jew and recent geology major, and Lt. Francis Holden Ill, who carries the novel's antiwar burden and is its leading martyr, although nearly all the company gets wiped out when their camp is overrun. In part the novel develops conventionally, with these fresh troops given a large assignment to penetrate and clear the enemy from certain fictional areas of South Vietnam. Foreseeably, the operation proves tactically pointless, and when the company at last achieves the position strategically desired by the big brass, it is in an openly indefensible area. Then the story swerves into Catch-22 satire that seems inappropriate, then swerves still again into a rape trial and court martial that simply do not bring the foregoing material into focus. Much to admire, as the ironies and horrors pile up, but unfocused rage and indignation--even in Vietnam--are not enough.

Pub Date: June 19th, 1978
ISBN: 0671522663
Publisher: Summit/Simon & Schuster