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The Healer's War

3.67  ·  Rating Details ·  1,273 Ratings  ·  81 Reviews

Although perhaps best-known for her lightly humorous fantasies and for her collaborations with Anne McCaffrey on the Petaybee series and the Acorna series, Elizabeth Anne Scarborough has also written Healer's War, a classic novel of the Vietnam War, enriched with a magical, mystical twist, which won the 1989 Nebula Award for Best Novel of 1988. The Minneapolis Star Tribune

Mass Market Paperback, 336 pages
Published September 1st 1989 by Bantam Spectra (first published 1988)
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Jun 01, 2013 Stuart rated it really liked it
The Healer's War: Harrowing tale of a Vietnam combat nurse
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
This is another Nebula winner I’ve had on the shelf ever since it was published in 1998, but hadn’t got around to reading. So when I found an audio version on Audible narrated by Robin Miles, one of my favorite female narrators after listening to N.K. Jemisin’s phenomenal The Fifth Season, that was enough to pull it to the top of my TBR list. Elizabeth Ann Scarborough is mostly known as a writer of h
Jul 23, 2013 Ryandake rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013-challenge
it's pretty rare to read a war novel by a woman--and despite the sf trappings, that's what this one is. for that reason alone it's worth a read.

our protag, Kitty, is a Vietnam-era nurse in a seaside base camp, relatively safe from being bayonetted but not immune to rockets. she cares for both American GI and Vietnamese civilian patients--with thorough professionalism for the former, and actual care for the latter, as the Vietnamese patients are there for a longer haul, and she has time to get to
Tamora Pierce
Dec 04, 2012 Tamora Pierce rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, historical, adult
Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, first known to me as the author of bawdy, funny fantasy, was a nurse durse the American war in Vietnam. THE HEALER'S WAR is what came of her time there, and it is every bit as gut-wrenching and real a Vietnam memoir as the best of the other Vietnam books I've read: Tim O'Brien's THE THINGS THEY CARRIED and LOOKING FOR CACCIATO, Jim Webb's FIELDS OF FIRE, Lynda Van Devanter's HOME BEFORE MORNING, and Michael Herr's DISPATCHERS.

There is a fantasy element to HEALER'S WAR
Megan Baxter
Jun 15, 2017 Megan Baxter rated it liked it
Still, we spent most of our beer-drinking time talking about the book, so I'll count it as a win. And one thing that kept coming up for both my husband and I was that this really wasn't a fantasy. Yes, there's an amulet in the book with a few magic powers, but it's in some ways such a minor part of a straight-forward Vietnam novel. The most magical power it seems to have (other than, you know, healing) is as a plot pass to get a white woman in among the Vietnamese people and then the Viet Cong w ...more
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]This was one of those years when the Nebula system managed to recognise an exceptional novel that would never win a Hugo. The Healer's War is a somewhat autobiographical account of the Vietnam war as seen by an American military nurse, with precisely one sfnal element: a magic amulet, with slightly healing powers, which gives the narrator the power of empathy with the Vietnamese of all sides and of none (and indeed with her fellow Americans a ...more
Oct 07, 2014 Megan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humble-bundle
I would never, ever suggest censoring any piece of literature, especially one as honest as this despite the fact that it's fiction. However, I would have given it four stars if only I could have stomached the brutality. That's my own failing, of course, but I wasn't exactly prepared for it, as about 75% of the book was probably about to my limit of violence, and then the jungle happens...

I do realize this was written in 1988 and as such does not reference anything happening in today's world, but
Nov 18, 2016 Contrarius rated it really liked it
This won the Nebula in 1989. On the one hand I can see why, but on the other hand I'm left scratching my head a bit. It's an often grim and brutal portrait of the reality of the Vietnam War, and it has a ring of authenticity given that Scarborough was herself an army nurse there. The fantasy component -- an amulet -- is almost incidental to the essentials of the story. That's the part that makes me scratch my head about the award -- this is barely a fantasy at all.

As you might expect from a real
Josh Meares
Jul 17, 2014 Josh Meares rated it liked it
This book takes a long time to get started, as far as the plot goes. So, it doesn't get really hi marks for "being interesting". However, the beauty (and shame) of this book is the picture that it paints of a Army nurse's experience of the Vietnam war. The lostness, cynicism, and hopelessness are characteristic of this type of novel, and understandably so. I imagine that the writers who return from Iraq and Afghanistan will write the same kind of literature. Scarborough does an excellent job of ...more
I had been seeing this book crop up in various book clubs I belonged to, and discussed by people I follow, but I had never gotten around to reading it. Because it is narrated by the incredible Robin Miles, I picked it up to give it a try. While I found the novel interesting, I didn't really latch onto it very well.

Kitty is our main character and the story is told through her eyes. She's a nurse in Vietnam, during the war, just trying to survive and have what life she can. Along the way, she gets
Berni Phillips
Oct 05, 2016 Berni Phillips rated it it was amazing
I read this book when it first came out and debated with myself about whether to nominate it for the Mythopoeic Award. It is an amazing book, in my opinion, but I didn't consider it mythopoeic. After, I regretted not nominating it, but it won the Nebula Award, so that's even better.

I find it as powerful today as when it first came out. I still can't quite consider it mythopoeic, but it is a tremendous story of change and struggle. Scarborough drew on her own experience as an army nurse in Viet N
May 21, 2014 Anna rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, reviewed
The Healer's War is a great example of a book I shouldn't have liked for at least two reasons. One, it's set in the Vietnam War, a downer topic if ever there was one. Second, it's yet another example of the pseudo-fantasy genre. In other words, fiction that's been classified as a fantasy due to some minute, barely discernable use of fantasy elements in the story. In this case, the fantasy part is an amulet that allows an army nurse to read people's auras. So disappointing! As far as I'm concerne ...more
Aug 07, 2016 Sineala rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, fantasy, fiction
This is a very well-written book that I am never, ever going to read again.

I think possibly I said the same thing about Octavia Butler's Kindred, and for similar reasons. There's only so much brutality I can take.

Everything else I have read by this author has been relatively light and fluffy formulaic SF/F. This is not one of those books. This is an actual war novel about being an Army nurse in Vietnam, informed by the author's actual life experience being an Army nurse in Vietnam. There's not a
Jun 28, 2013 Hilary rated it it was ok
I didn't feel like this could really be classified as a fantasy novel. It felt like the one limited fantasy element was being used as a means for the author to make commentary about plot and character. I kept waiting for more to be offered about the source of the magic amulet, the man who gave it to her, how it might have fit into a larger community of healers in this part of the world.

I picked up this book hoping to find a fantasy novel that explored some Asian perspectives on spirituality and
Bill Blocksom
Jan 08, 2011 Bill Blocksom rated it really liked it
This was a good read. Action, adventure, fantasy. A good story. It helped me see a little more clearly the complexity of the Viet Nam war through the eyes and experiences of an Army nurse. I really enjoyed it and it has left me with a lot to think about.
Feb 10, 2009 Kris rated it really liked it
Really surprised it won a Nebula, but it was good. Written about a nurse in the Vietnam War by a Vietnam vet nurse. Essentially no sci-fi. I am a sucker for good stories where people can see auras.
Jul 02, 2016 Pamela rated it it was amazing
So good. Review in a bit.
Jul 23, 2017 Jon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 stars

This never really worked for me. I was expecting a fantasy novel and this is really more of an historical fiction piece with a little fantasy thrown on top. I enjoyed Part One when Kitty was working in the hospital but when the scenery changed in Part Two it just felt like every other Vietnam war movie and novel that I've read/watched. Part Three is actually the story that I probably would've enjoyed reading had it been the focus of the book but it was so short that I got very little ou
Herman Padilla
Have not read very many books on the Vietnam war, so the only book I can compare this too would be Norman Mailer “The Naked and the dead” I would also say it’s a bit like Octavia Butler’s books in the fantasy social issue elements but I can also say it was a very effective book, one that capture the horror and absurdly of war the conflicted nature of people trying to survive it in the only way they can. I was thinking 4 stars but really it earns itself 5 such an honest portrayal from a women’s v ...more
Jul 23, 2017 Wilson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As grim as you'd expect for a book set in the Vietnam war, but it never felt gratuitous thanks to a focus on the humanity of everyone involved, including those doing cruel or harsh things. The fantasy aspect of the story is also fairly muted to maintain the focus on the characters and the reality of Vietnam (the author is a veteran). A powerful novel about the consequences and realities of war.
David Richardson
This book was all over the map. Sometimes boring, sometimes exciting, and sometimes just plain weird. Not like any Vietnam story I have read before. Not a bad book, just didn't yank my crank. Maybe I am just getting too picky in my old age!
Masayuki Arai
May 05, 2017 Masayuki Arai rated it did not like it
Every literary work on Vietnam war is boring :(
Mar 06, 2017 FatPresident rated it liked it
the author's anguish about all the hurt and dehumanization she saw in Vietnam comes through. the writing is compelling and feels authentic. the book is a bit of a polemic, though, and the magic elements seem forced in order to show all the scenes and situations Ms. Scarborough wanted to depict. the prose and the descriptions carried me through to the end, but often feeling lectured at. in reading the afterward, it seems the author is well aware of all these critiques, and I am glad she told her ...more
Shellie (Layers of Thought)
Dec 14, 2009 Shellie (Layers of Thought) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Recommended to Shellie (Layers of Thought) by: I had to dig to find a speculative fiction book about Vietnam
The original review with additional links and information is posted on Layers of Thought.

A realistic fantasy novel set in Vietnam during the ill fated war against communism. With a touch of the magical/paranormal it shows a realistic, difficult, and heartbreaking picture of Vietnam from the perspective of a female veteran of the war.

About: Kitty, the main character, is a twenty-something nurse from the Mid West who decides to go to Vietnam to help in the war efforts, since her life at home in t
Sharon Reamer
May 22, 2014 Sharon Reamer rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I am having a hard time characterizing my response to this book. (Note: contains spoilers)

On the one hand, it was an amazing account of a woman's journey to know the limits of what she can endure. Kitty, an American nurse stationed at China Beach during the Vietnam War, comes to care as much for her Vietnamese patients as she does for the American GIs. She has an affair with a helicopter pilot that fizzles out. This comprises part one of the book and is interesting in a kind of very grown-up Can
I read this book as part of my quest to read more Hugo and Nebula award winning novels as well as to read more novels by authors who are not straight, white, Western men.

This novel surprised me. It won a Nebula Award, but the amount of fantasy content in here is minimal. There is a healing amulet that allows our protagonist, Kitty, to see auras and understand what is wrong with people and what their emotions are, and also gives her some advanced healing powers. I liked this part of the book, es
Seamus Mcduff
Jan 03, 2015 Seamus Mcduff rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It's debatable I suppose, but I think perhaps sometimes it is useful to read something well below the par of what you would normally read. If only to make you better appreciate good writing. Maybe that sounds snobbish.

I felt it was rather a shame that this novel went the way it did. In the beginning I was quite enjoying the scenes in the army hospital and the various on and off base happenings. There were elements of what seemed like truthfulness due to the fact that the author was in reality a
Janito Vaqueiro Ferreira Filho
Mar 01, 2015 Janito Vaqueiro Ferreira Filho rated it really liked it
I would give it 3.5 stars. It's a very interesting description of a person in the middle of the war of Vietnam.

The book is divided in two parts. The first part takes place in a hospital that takes care of wounded troops and civilians (both American and from Vietnam). This part is interesting mostly in the descriptions of how the hesitant relationship between Americans and locals is portrayed, with some people (like the protagonist) indifferent to nationality while others would rather leave the l
Aug 12, 2013 Peter rated it really liked it
The story of an army nurse during the Vietnam war. Assigned to care for Vietnamese civilians who have been wounded, she develops deep bonds with her patients. An old man in her care has a strange amulet that gives him healing powers, but at terrible cost to his own energy. Eventually she is given the amulet when the old man dies. A change in command in her unit has a different policy implemented for her charges, and desperate to save at least one little boy from being sent to a Vietnamese hospit ...more
Kathleen Dixon
I was most pleased by this book. I have read a few of Scarborough's collaborations with Anne McCaffrey over the years and, while liking the storyline ideas, have always found them substandard. Reading some information about Scarborough, however, after my last little foray into the collaboration (as part of a must-read-all-my-McCaffreys-before-I-make-some-room-on-my-bookshelves) I saw that she got a Nebula Award for this novel. I was extremely curious to read it and see if I could revise my opini ...more
Mathew Walls
Sep 09, 2014 Mathew Walls rated it really liked it
Shelves: female-authors, ebook
When i first saw the title of this book I assumed it was going to be some generic fantasy "chosen-one in a world of sword and sorcery" type of story, so I was pleasantly surprised that it turned out not to be. Even beyond the name, the book does itself no favours though by starting with a glossary. Fortunately, it turns out to be completely unnecessary as everything makes sense in context.

The book is broken into three sections (although the third section is basically just an epilogue), and I fel
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Elizabeth Ann Scarborough was born March 23, 1947, and lives in the Puget Sound area of Washington. Elizabeth won a Nebula Award in 1989 for her novel The Healer's War, and has written more than a dozen other novels. She has collaborated with Anne McCaffrey, best-known for creating the Dragonriders of Pern, to produce the Petaybee Series and the Acorna Series.
More about Elizabeth Ann Scarborough...

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