Shaara's latest historical novel abandons the Civil War era of his two previous works, Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure, which completed a trilogy begun by his father with the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Killer Angels. Striving this time to reimagine the Mexican-American War of 1847, Shaara paints a respectable if uneven group portrait of the men who fought south of the border. Gen. Winfield Scott--accompanied by future Confederacy leaders Robert E. Lee, George Pickett and Thomas (Stonewall) Jackson, and soon-to-be Union Army Gen. Ulysses S. Grant--lands at the port of Vera Cruz, intent on piercing straight through to the heart of Mexico and defeating General Santa Anna. Shaara is at his best when describing the all-too-real horrors of hand-to-hand combat, enveloping the reader in the sounds, smells and realities of battlefield carnage. ""Now, when a man dies by your side, you don't expect the man who replaces him to survive either, you don't even want to learn his name. And now, when you march into the guns, you accept that this time it might be you, as if it's already decided."" The author sometimes tries to hard to distinguish his characters by their traits, interjecting superfluous details verging on caricature, such as Scott's distaste for veal. ""Try never to eat the stuff... Horrible, barbaric. Baby cows."" However, a scene describing the delayed hanging of a group of American deserters so that they may watch and cheer the raising of the Stars and Stripes over the castle of Chapultepec is gripping and all too believable. Though the stilted, ""in the mind of the soldier"" narrative becomes a wearisome contrivance at times, the action scenes are fluid and compelling. 15-city author tour; Random House Large Print, BDD Audio. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/01/2000 Release date: 05/01/2000 Genre: Fiction
Compact Disc - 978-0-553-71198-1
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-553-52720-9
Hardcover - 655 pages - 978-0-375-43057-2
Mass Market Paperbound - 512 pages - 978-0-345-42752-6
Analog Audio Cassette - 12 pages - 978-0-553-50254-1
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.