Sympathy for the Devil

Kent Anderson, Author, Mary Anderson, Author
Kent Anderson, Author, Mary Anderson, Author Doubleday Books $17.95 (316p) ISBN 978-0-385-23943-1
Reviewed on: 06/26/1987
Release date: 07/01/1987
Reflecting the author's own experiences, the characters in this graphic, grippingly authentic first novel are the combat-tested soldiers of the Special Forces in Vietnam. Quinn, nerveless, seemingly made of granite and steel, amuses hismelf and some onlookers by biting off the heads of live ducklings. Hanson, the protagonist, who begins his mornings with beer and amphetamines, not only enlisted for service in Nam while in law school but signed on for an extra year for the privilege of joining the elite corps. ""College boy'' though he isa term of contempt mixed with envyhis patriotic credientials are unimpeachable: he, too, can't abide hippies, draft dodgers, antiwar protesters and other ``sloths.'' When Quinn is accidentally killed by blundering American troops, Hanson exacts bizarre, deranged, murderous revenge in a wild climactic scene that serves to compound the novel's ambiguous perspective on war in general and the Vietnam conflict in particular. Though a skillful writer, Anderson's depiction of war is a shade too melodramatic and cinematic, too much a way of separating the men from the boys. Yet he vividly involves the reader in the unending nightmare thatHanson is ``doomed to survive.'' (August 21)
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