4 out of 4 stars
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Deadly Waters: The Vietnam Naval War and Its Aftermath by Randy Miller is more than just the average war story that begins and ends with the ongoing conflict of war. The story is broken up into three parts. The first details Zack Martin’s adventures on the Hawke. During this part, we get a good look in Philippines as the soldiers interact with the locals. Part 2 shifts gears as the protagonist boards the Providence in a section that focuses more on ship life with some adventures taking place at home as the characters earn temporary leave. Then the last part details the troubles that came home after the war ended for our heroes.
Who is the enemy that persists throughout the changing settings? The unfortunate truth: America itself. At war, the rivalry between marines and navy men is shown to be almost as dangerous as warring against the Viet Cong itself. This rivalry may not take lives in the book, but it does point out that the brutal fights that occurred could have easily led to an accidental death. At home, the war protestors worked to breakdown the spirits of soldiers risking their lives for their country. Of course, the biggest guns of conflict proved to be the Veteran Affairs department that didn’t want to take care of those who ended up sacrificing their health for the war.
In this book, I really enjoyed the perspective of an omniscient narrator looking back to tell the story. It lends to neat moments where the character can say things along the lines of: “You thought this guy was bad already, but he went on to take out this many people by war’s end.” Plus, this choice allowed Randy to easily switch focus to enemy soldiers and show their perspectives, and here Randy excelled. I found the creative spellings, that illustrated the different dialects of the various regions, made the dialogue more charming to read, and these spellings are a testament to Randy’s imagination. He knows his characters well.
However, there were moments the story lacked focus and slowed down a bit. I didn’t much care for the chapters that went by as a series of letters. I think more story following Zack, with a few letters from his fiancé to show the happenings back at home, would have been a more balanced approach. It would have recreated the effect of war hardships lifted by the dreaminess of letters from home. I also felt that Tally, the fiancé, could have been written with more characterization. For example, there were quite a few times, more so in the earlier sections of the book, where she felt as if she was more of an echo of Zack than her own character.
This story is geared towards older audiences. After all, soldiers don’t filter their words. Another habit of soldiers brought a few suggestive scenes into the book, though these scenes never went further than the PG-13 rating of movies. The story is written well. Given that that Randy had to balance between proper grammar for prose and the established rules of a character’s dialect in dialogue, I am dumfounded that were only a few errors. Now, before I give my final rating, I must note that this book isn’t one that literary critics will hail as the perfect story. However, it is a great story of the history genre, and, despite the moments that dragged, I award this story 4 out of 4 stars. I will also add that the lessons to be learned from these wild times are still relevant today.
Deadly Waters: The Vietnam Naval War And Its Aftermath
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