Monday, May 28, 2012

REVIEW: The American War

Title: The American War
Author: Don Meyer
Genre: historical fiction, fantasy
Price: $7.55 (Kindle) $19.95 (paperback)
Publisher: Two Peas Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-938271-00-7
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

The back jacket of Don Meyer’s new book says, “In the summer of 1969, elements of the 101st Airborne went back to the A Shau Valley in South Vietnam.  In the summer of 1864 the 10th Vermont, part of General Rickett’s Third Division, marched into the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.  Sam Kensington was there at both campaigns.”  As a military history buff and veteran (US Navy) I found this description fascinating, and so I asked Don Meyer to send me a copy of his book.  I’m glad he did.

The book starts with a chapter laying out the fall of the A Shau Special Forces camp in 1966.  It then moves into the preparations for the Union invasion of the Shenandoah Valley in 1864.  We soon learn that the extremely detailed accounting we’re getting of the 10th Vermont’s preparations are the dreams of one Sam Kensington, grunt, waiting to move into the A Shau Valley.  Sam is no Civil War buff, and he has no idea why he’s dreaming about this war, or even what campaign of the war he’s seeing.  Since he’s seen action before in Vietnam without these dreams, he’s a bit concerned that he’s cracking up, and ends up talking to the Company XO, who happens to know a bit about the Civil War.

The book then proceeds in parallel, with us following both Sams, first in Vietnam, then Virginia, then back again.  Meyer, the author, is a Vietnam vet, and so his Vietnam scenes are more realized then the Civil War scenes, but both eras are portrayed in a griping and compelling manner.  Sam in both wars is just a grunt, so his war isn’t the big sweeping arrows on a map, but rather the personal war of keeping himself and his buddies alive, while maybe getting lucky enough to score a hot shower and hot food. 

I really enjoyed reading The American War.  Having said that, sometimes self-publishers could really use a story editor and this is one of those times.  We find out way at the end of the story, in a section that feels a bit bolted on, why exactly Sam is having his dreams.  Without giving away too much, it’s the reverse of Checkov’s Gun, in that the ending is not foreshadowed.  The heck of it is, it would have been a matter of a paragraph or two to adequately foreshadow (or at least support) Meyer’s ending.  Despite that flaw, I can wholeheartedly recommend The American War to any buff of military history or historical fiction.


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