4 out of 4 stars
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Deadly Waters: The Vietnam War and Its Aftermath by Randy Miller is a thoroughly researched chronicle of the Navy's part in the Vietnam War, couched in a historical fiction setting. Reading this book was both enlightening and frightening for me. There were many things about this war that I was unaware of - for example, the deep animosity between the Navy sailors and the Marines. I did know about Agent Orange, but was not aware of the severe ramifications for the Naval crews, and how they contacted it through their drinking water. I truly appreciated learning about the inner workings of this war in a fictional format.
Our story begins with Zachariah Martin (Zack) being assigned to his first ship, the Hawke, in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. We find out early in the story that he has a sweetie back home in Vermont, and that his parents run a dairy and maple syrup farm there. But as the Hawke and its crew move on to Vietnam, via Hawaii and the Philippines, we find out about the workings on a Navy ship and Zack's experiences aboard it. As the war grinds on, we are able to see both sides of the war as Miller describes characters and action in the Viet Cong army as well as the American troops. There is constant conflict both between the characters and between the men and nature. As the story winds down and Zack returns home to marry his sweetheart, conflict follows him. It soon becomes evident that the war has left some lasting effects on him, both mental and physical, but he stays true to his inner moral compass and his beloved wife to the very end.
Randy Miller does a superb job of describing his characters and settings. He paints pictures that seem to come alive, of the beauty and the horror of Vietnam and its occupants. He depicts the hatred of many Americans toward the war and its participants in a truly realistic way. He conveys the feelings and beliefs of the characters so well that the reader understands them from the inside out. Many times as I read this book, I felt as if I was living alongside Zack and his compatriots. There was some disgusting language spoken by some of the sailors, which I didn't like, but I believe that it was realistically how they talk. The author also included some aphorisms of war which added to the story: "It was not the weapons of war that provided the greatest danger, but rather those skilled in their usage." (p. 171) Another was quite descriptive of life on a warship: "Sleep when you can, not when you want to."
This book was very well edited, in fact, I only saw one clerical error, which is exceptional. The thing that I disliked the most about the book was the R-rated language, which, as I explained earlier, I realize is done to make it more realistic. I did really appreciate the Christian undertone of the home life in Vermont, including a discussion on war as found in the Bible. I also particularly enjoyed Miller's phonetic spelling of the words spoken with different accents. It was fun to try to pronounce the words as written.
I rated this book 4 out of 4 because I thought the plot, character development, and descriptions were very well done. Plus there were only a few grammatical or spelling errors, so I feel that it was professionally edited. This is an excellent book for any lovers of historical fiction, especially those who like to read about the wars of our country.
Deadly Waters: The Vietnam Naval War And Its Aftermath
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