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Dog Soldiers

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  4,031 ratings  ·  161 reviews
In Saigon during the last stages of the Vietnam war, a small-time journalist named John Converse thinks he'll find action - and profit - by getting involved in a big-time drug deal. But back in the States, things go badly wrong for him.
Paperback, 342 pages
Published April 7th 1987 by Penguin Books (first published 1973)
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Jeffrey Keeten

“I’ve been waiting my whole life to fuck up like this.”

The Summer of Love has withered away into the Autumn of Paranoia and the Spring of Delusions. John Converse, a journalist, whose claim to fame is his ability to produce compelling headlines (stories to go with the headlines, well that is where things go haywire), is in Vietnam, but he isn’t really sure why he is still there. His room has been tainted by some maniac American who chased lizards along th
I began this book thinking it would be about the Vietnam War told from the perspective of an in-country reporter named John Converse. I came to find that, while a few early scenes were set in Vietnam and Converse did occasionally reflect on his time spent there, the focus of the book is a drug deal that goes wrong--horribly, horribly wrong. However, I still loved the book. It has a bit of a Pulp Fiction or Guy Ritchie film feel to it. None of the characters are likable people and they have the m ...more
A few weeks ago I happened to catch the 1978 adaptation of this novel, Who'll Stop the Rain, starring Nick Nolte when he was only, like, 36 instead of 902. The movie made me nostalgic for Robert Stone's original novel, so I found a first edition online for amazingly cheap and re-devoured it in a day. It's a great glimpse into scuzzy America c. 1970---the death of the 60s' cultural revolution, when druggie enlightenment turned into junk dealing and free love degenerated into a trip to the titty b ...more
Jun 28, 2011 Mariel rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cracked actor
Recommended to Mariel by: future legend
Whenever I spy a cop car in my rearview mirror I feel like they might be coming after me. If I step out of line they'll pull me over and that'll be it. (That I've been ticketed twice for bullshit reasons - driving through a one road town with shiny new cop cars for all with out of county plates type of reasons - is neither here nor there. "It's all over. The game is up!" What game? Beats me. I'm probably fucking crazy. ) I slow down to the absolute speed limit, turn my music off, grip the steeri ...more
Apr 19, 2009 John rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: who wouldn't profit from a portrait of idealism gone wicked?
Recommended to John by: many readers & writers
Robert Stone, let's all remember, joined his Stanford classmate Ken Kesey & the rest of the Merry Pranksters aboard the LSD-fueled bus "Further," back at the onset of the High Sixties. The experience brought in its richest harvest, however, not in any memoir (though Stone's recent PRIME GREEN makes an admirable effort) but in this piercing & scarifying *noir.* Though first published just as the '60s hallucinations were petering out, DOG SOLDIERS remains the essential depiction of how the ...more
Set in the early '70's as the Vietnam War was winding down, Converse (a guy, not a shoe)is supposedly a journalist, but in reality has gone to Vietnam mostly as a tourist. As he gets ready to return home, he gets involved with a deal to smuggle a large quantity of almost pure heroin back into the states, and he has reason to think that the CIA is covertly sponsoring the plan.

Converse recruits a former soldier, Hicks, to get the dope back into the States and hand it off to his wife, Marge. Marge
I always wrote Stone off as a post-Hemingway tough guy writer (which on some levels he is), and really wish someone had slapped me and forced one of his books into my hand. He uses the stark storytelling of Hemingway with the dark forebodings of Conrad and the apocalyptic humor of Nathaniel West. This novel travels through the same anxieties of Pynchon’s Gravity;s Rainbow( with a bag of heroin replacing phallic rocket technology) but with more naturalistic prose, on the edge borderline demented ...more
Larry Bassett
The novel tells the story of an American journalist in Vietnam who schemes to smuggle heroin into the United States aided by his wife in California and an ex-Marine accomplice. As the plan goes askew, Stone creates a harrowing struggle for possession of the drug while investigating the psychological motivation and interrelationships of the major characters.

Having experienced the American involvement in Vietnam firsthand, Stone is seemingly more concerned with analyzing the aftermath of the conf
This is one of those books from the 70s where every conversation they have you know that they're really talking about something else, something much deeper and more profound than what they're saying on the surface, but you have no idea what it is. Or maybe that's just me. I want to like this book, I want to be hip to the cool, 60/70s druggie counterculture. I want to be in on the joke and get what the cool kids get. But I just don't seem to. It's the same for me with Naked Lunch or On the Road, ...more
I was born in 1968. My memories of the early 1970's are that of a child. My parents worked. They provided a nice safe house and I was never cold or hungry. What memories I have of the first part of that decade (outside of my family) are associated with television shows ( The Rookies, Adam-12, Emergency, The Mary Tyler Moore Show) and a few movies. So when I am curious about what was going on in America's soul during that time period I turn to works of fiction - books and movies. Everything from ...more
John Converse decides to smuggle heroin from Vietnam to the U.S. almost on a whim, and his wife Marge and "friend" Hicks end up bearing the burden of unloading it while John is pursued by a team of possible federal agents.

It's pretty easy to tell when I don't get a book, and in this case I seemed to be missing crucial context about Vietnam and how the world worked in the mid-1970's. I also think my Kindle version of this book was riddled with typos and bad formatting, especially with dialogue, w
Lukasz Pruski
On the cover of Robert Stone's "Dog Soldiers" a blurb from Washington Post Book World screams "The Most Important Novel of the Year". Had this been indeed true, then 1973 would have been a terrible year for books. "Dog Soldiers" is just a complex and competent thriller, with some nuggets of social observation thrown in to make it appear wise and deep.

1973, Saigon. Vietnam war is winding down. The main characters are John Converse, a low-level journalist and an aspiring writer, his wife, Marge,
I started reading this because I heard that this was a cross between Raymond Chandler and Hunter S Thompson. While I haven’t read anything of Thompson (I will soon) I am a huge fan of Chandler; this is more neo-noir than hard-boiled but that’s ok. Dog Soldiers follows the story of a war journalist, a marine and the journalist’s wife as the plan a smuggling deal. Converse (journalist) plans to ship heroin from Vietnam on a marine vessel with the help of Hicks (marine). When Hicks gets to America ...more
This is Heart of Darkness put in the Vietnam War times and fueled by the addiction and money profits of smack. I liked the hard-nosed attitudes and trancy prose. Rather grim at times.
Starts out wonderful with insights of a civilian journalist who goes to Vietnam to feel the pain of his generation and write his great novel/play, and how he later returns with the knowledge that he is just trying to make a quick buck smuggling heroin back to the states. Then it shifts to his partner, the one-time all-American boy who thinks of himself as a peaceful zen warrior, but finds himself surrounded by an unfamiliar America that wants nothing more than drugs and titty bars. His experienc ...more
Carmen Petaccio
"In a manner of speaking, he had discovered himself. Himself was a soft shell-less quivering thing encased in a hundred and sixty pounds of pink sweating meat. It was real enough. It tried to burrow into the earth. It wept."

"It was a seduction. The shit would seal some chaste clammy intimacy; there would be long loving talks while their noses ran and their light bulbs popped out silently in the skull's darkness."

"Men rolled in the road calling on Buddha or wandered about weeping, holding themsel
Joey Gold
"Yes," Dieter said, "I can see that. But in real life, you can't pull it off."
"Well then, fuck real life. Real life don't cut no ice with me."
("Dog Soldiers", Robert Stone, p. 292).

The most unique thing about this book is how its language runs in collision with its pace. It has the rhythm of a bloody-action heist thriller on ascending adrenalin, but the language which describes this action is filled with strange, darkly-comic wordplay and semi-psychedelic quirky imagery. Towards the last section
Rereading this and A Hall of Mirrors, I was knocked over by both of them again in different ways... but while I still can't rate this one as any less than great, it now seems like a lesser kind of thing, a little more schematic. Where A Hall of Mirrors felt like it took place in a living world (though an often yucky one), Dog Soldiers feels more like a hollowed-out dream-world where the characters are totally alone with the results of their free will-- which is probably exactly the effect Stone ...more
If all books were this fun to read, I don't think I'd get much done in life. For the first one hundred pages or so, Dog Soldiers fell into the "pretty fun to read, though not too much else going on for it" category. The plot seemed a bit overplayed, and the dialogue sounded as if it were taken out of something aged and hard-boiled, or intended for young adults. But the further I got into the book, the more I liked it. The characters emerged as fairly three-dimensional, well illustrated people. T ...more
It took me a while to start enjoying this book about three people near the end of the Vietnam war who decide to smuggle 3 kilos of heroin into the states. It felt a little dated, and grounded in an ancient sense of cool, where a willingness to get high was supposed to be an indicator of your superiority as a human being. The characters were generally unlikable, and Marge, especially, grated on me. But the dialogue overall was very good, the antagonists were far more than just stereotypical cardb ...more
A puzzle and a mystery. A book about three kilos of heroin smuggled stateside from Vietnam. A drug deal gone bad. A chase. A second deal gone bad and then a third. The real bad guys win and the sorta bad guys sorta win by some of them outliving all these bad deals.

I thought I hadn't read it, but the last third was sure awful familiar. I wonder what that means. In the reality of this book it means something. I'm mostly pleased with this read, but it does reference lot of Catholic practice that
Earnest Thompson
"I am not now -- nor have I ever been -- God," the now toothless guru Dieter says from his mountain top fortress amidst a psychedelic forest. A firefight ensues, of course. And the hope and promise of the counter culture completes its descent into hard drugs, finger pointing and layers of vicious betrayal.

That wasn't the Vietnam era story I intended to read, however. In a momentary lapse of recall, I reached for Michael Herr's war memoir Dispatches and came back w/ Robert Stone's terrifying nov
Benoit Lelievre
It was really cool and really odd to read at the same time. Part of what makes this book so unique is that it's probably the first novel written about a heroin deal. It's also probably why it's out of print today. The world (particularly the drug trade) has changed so much since then that there's not much actuality to it. Even then, it's a really cool zeitgeist novel about the counterculture. It's a very good book period.
Read this a few years ago as an undergraduate; re-read it in 2011 as part of my Time 100 challenge. I remembered the Vietnam-era paranoia dripping from every page of this novel, but I'd totally forgotten how propulsive the action gets. A worthy entry in the genre of Vietnam War lit.

More thoughts on this novel here:
4.5 stars, really but let's make it 5, since doesn't allow 0.5 stars to be awarded.

This is a very nicely-conceived, well-written book. I was wondering whether it would just be that, whether I would come away from this novel feeling some dim glow of respect for Stone as a writer and his craftsmanship but not terribly moved or engrossed in the actual story itself.

Plot-wise, not the most original (a dope deal gone wrong) but sufficient as a narrative device (sufficiently kinetic?) in
Chris Brimmer
All you have to do is read one quote, "but in a world where flying men hunt elephants people are just naturally going to want to get high." If you read this book and think its just a well crafted adventure crime story, then you just didn't get it and you need to read it again. I've read this novel 8-10 times over the years and get something new out of it everytime.
Eleanor Levine
This was an educational read about Vietnam, heroin and California and though it wasn't always brilliant, it had some brilliant moments, cause Robert Stone is brilliant, fyi. Plus I finished this book, which, as of late, is an accomplishment for me. Strange and insightful and satirical of rich lefties, which I always appreciate.
I really enjoyed the beginning of the book. I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if it took place entirely in Vietnam. I thought it really started to slow down in America, and I didn't care about any of the characters. Disjointed, and it didn't really seem to have any direction.
A brisk literary thriller (it won the National Book Award), the kind that isn't really written today. It confirms in my mind (though I didn't have much doubt) that the 1970s were a period of general malaise. It also helps me affirm my decision not to traffic heroin.
Feb 20, 2008 Xander rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Xander by: Marc Leepson
I'll agree the post-'Nam-junkie novel has never been done better, but that doesn't mean I enjoyed reading it.

I've got no problem with dark, but there's "dark" and then there's "unpleasant."
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ROBERT STONE was the author of seven novels: A Hall of Mirrors, Dog Soldiers (winner of the National Book Award), A Flag for Sunrise, Children of Light, Outerbridge Reach, Damascus Gate, and Bay of Souls. His story collection, Bear and His Daughter, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and his memoir, Prime Green, was published in 2006.
His work was typically characterized by psychological compl
More about Robert Stone...
Damascus Gate A Flag For Sunrise Death of the Black-Haired Girl Outerbridge Reach A Hall of Mirrors

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“I’ve been waiting my whole life to fuck up like this.” 26 likes
“I've always remembered. This fellow said to me - if you think someones'doing you wrong, it's not for you to judge. Kill them first and then God can do the judging.” 17 likes
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