Written by Karl Marlantes
Review by John R. Vallely

Historical novels of young men at war play a critical role in popular acceptance of this genre. First-time novelist Karl Marlantes’s lengthy novel on U.S. Marines in Vietnam has earned a place on bookshelves with Red Badge of Courage and All Quiet on the Western Front. A combat Marine in Vietnam himself, Marlantes presents the story through the experiences of Lieutenant Waino Mellas and the Marines of Bravo Company. The young men face the challenge of attacking an enemy hilltop position, the “Matterhorn” of the title, in the forbidding terrain near the border with Laos. Lieutenant Mellas is an introspective officer who learns to conquer his uncertainties and fear while simultaneously leading a diverse group of Marines whose backgrounds, actions, and attitudes accurately outline the real Marines on whom they are undoubtedly based.

The combat action is intense and at times seems nonstop. The author writes with both conviction and passion as the fighting takes the battle-hardened Marines up the deadly hillsides of Matterhorn. This novel has been critically acclaimed by reviewers from The New York Times Book Review down to shoppers I have come upon in bookstores. Campaign with Mellas, Cassidy, Sheller, Hawke and their comrades towards Matterhorn, and you will agree this work is a powerful example of the historical novel at is best.