of Viet Nam (and i don't mean just
combat vets like Drake, i mean REMFs
like myself) ought to recognise what
this story is about; it's about
damnation and about people who don't
deserve it who were sent to Hell, and
It's about something we didn't get.
think my country got a little
twenty-five years to welcome me
the way that people who didn't
understand what some of us had been
through regarded us... and it's about
the only way those people could
possibly have been brought to
understand that we weren't
(quasi-quoting Drake) toxic waste that
sometimes explodes without warning; a
way that could never actually happen.
It's about letting the veteran prove
his worth in his own eyes and in the
eyes of others; letting him buy back
his pride and his sense of himself as
a man, and not as just a
It's about admitting that we owe
the people who fight our wars
something... if only a little respect.
"This is your lucky day
-- you been back from 'Nam for only
six weeks, and I am gonna do for you
what it took someone six *months* to
do for me when I came back."
"Really? Thanks, brother -- what is
"Nothin'. Sign here, please."
|The cover painting
for this book is one of the most striking
i have ever seen illustrating a war
story, either "real" or sf war.
Simply, almost crudely, rendered,
showing the cruelly stressed soldier
trying to shield the child's body from
the blast with his own; on his face
the expression almost of a suffering
Christ, his eyes fixed in the
"thousand yard stare" of what earlier
generations called "shell shock" or
"combat fatigue" (and God damn George
S. Patton to hell), still out there on
the front, fighting for what he
himself may have almost forgotten...
Right there, on that anonymous grunt's
face and in his actions, is the theme
of sacrifice and damnation and
redemption that Drake is playing on in
his text. (One suspects that the
artist himself may well have "seen the
don't mean nothin', snake."
(David Drake, Rolling Hot
at least as i read it, is an attempt
to show that that the 'Nam grunts'
catchphrase isn't true -- that it does
mean something and that we are
"You owe us, long and heavy is
its soldiers and veterans support and
gratitude and help.
Sometimes it pays off on those debts.
Sometimes it's easier to just ignore
the redliners you create.
"But it's 'Special train for
Atkins!' when the troopship's on the
to this review for the Twentieth
Anniversary Edition: David
Drake says in the forward to this
edition that writing this book is what
finally allowed him to exorcise the
ghosts of his year in hell; that after
he wrote it, he was finally able to
stop fearing what he might do if
something triggered the anger he had
Back in the day, usually nothing was
done to help veterans re-intgrate to
society; one day Drake was in-country
with his unit - seventy-two hours
later he was begining his fourth
semester of law school at Duke
The Twentieth Anniversary Edition ends
with a selection of letters Drake has
received from other veterans of Viet
Nam and other actions, thanking him
for the book.
Next time i run into him at an SF
convention, i intend to do the same.