I received a copy of the 20th anniversary edition of Richard Currey's Fatal Light through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. I had never heard of it, even though it was widely acclaimed after its initial release as one of the highlights of Vietnam War inspired literature.
The novel follows the experiences of an 18 year old who is drafted into service in Vietnam in 1968. We start as he is just graduating from high school, falling in love, going to the draft board, watching his mother cry, and silently freaking out. We move to boot camp, the jungle, death, killing, boredom, and fear. And eventually we get back to the States where everything is the same and nothing is familiar.
It is certainly not a new story, but Currey's poetic voice and gliding narrative of small vignettes in the life of an ordinary soldier are moving and engrossing in a way that a more straightforward and action-filled story would miss. Currey is a Vietnam vet himself, and while the novel is not directly based on his own experiences, his feelings and observations of life as a drafted soldier permeate the book. Before writing this novel, Currey was a published poet and short story writer and the brevity and care for word choice that he learned in those genres serve him well here.
[On an unrelated note, this is my 900th post on Spacebeer. Whoa. Want a cheap thrill? Click on the link on my sidebar for a random Spacebeer moment from history.]