4 out of 4 stars
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Nothing stands as a more remarkable testament to humans' contradictory nature than war: it evokes images of heroism and cruelty, comradery and hatred, glory and despair. One could easily spend a lifetime exploring the subject from different angles without even scratching its surface. That said, Charles L. Templeton's Boot: A Sorta Novel of Vietnam provides a unique portrayal of war by embracing its absurdity. The novel follows George Orwell Hill (G.O. Hill) as he reminisces about his experiences as a Marine in the Vietnam War and how they changed him. I listened to the Audible version narrated by Eric Smies.
As one would expect from an authentic story featuring Marines in the 60s, the book does not shy away from profanities, politically incorrect language, and the gory details of life in the barracks. But beneath this surface lies a surprisingly deep narrative containing psychological exploration, literary allusions, and commentaries on society, religion, and human nature. G.O.'s character development is particularly fascinating to witness since his experiences force him to reconsider previous assumptions and worldviews.
Eric Smies' narration is a perfect companion to the book, elevating it to even higher immersion levels. Smies transitions from wonderfully twisted literary prose ("His mind set sail for the fabled land of the Cimmerians, somewhere beyond the stream of the Okeanos, where no mortal soul ever sees the sun: no taste, no color, no tears, no testicles, oh no!") to amusing quips ("Everything I've been taught seems like a lie. I wonder if five moderately sized armadillo penises still equal an inch?") and colorful dialogue from diverse characters with all sorts of quirks and accents.
Despite my overall high praise for the novel, I did have a few minor problems with it, especially as an audiobook. The author leaves some jargon (for example, FNG) unexplained, disrupting the experience for those unfamiliar with military terminology. Speaking of disruption, the first chapters are challenging to follow due to the frequent digressions and elaborate prose. The book's unique writing style does make it stand out, and I quickly grew an appreciation for it, but I wish the beginning had been more... well, beginner-friendly.
I wholeheartedly recommend Boot: A Sorta Novel of Vietnam to fans of war stories, character-driven narratives, and creative storytelling, provided they don't mind the coarse content. Readers looking for action-packed tales with inexhaustible supplies of battles and gruesome deaths should look elsewhere, but some scenes might require a strong stomach. Since I consider the flaws very minor and didn't find any technical issues, I rate the book 4 out of 4 stars.
Boot: A Sorta Novel of Vietnam
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