Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War
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Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War

4.27 of 5 stars 4.27  ·  rating details  ·  15,639 ratings  ·  2,097 reviews
Intense, powerful, and compelling, Matterhorn is an epic war novel in the tradition of Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead and James Jones’s The Thin Red Line. It is the timeless story of a young Marine lieutenant, Waino Mellas, and his comrades in Bravo Company, who are dropped into the mountain jungle of Vietnam as boys and forced to fight their way into manhood. Stan...more
Hardcover, 600 pages
Published March 23rd 2010 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published January 1st 2006)
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sckenda
So, this is how it ends. I will die on a jungle hill (“the Matterhorn”) in Vietnam, 1969. My death won’t be cinematic. Before this day is over, flies will prance across my eyeballs. I will return to the mud of this fecund earth, from which springs a riot of green vegetation. In the midst of my death, I am surrounded by life.

I command a rifle platoon, the 40 marines from Bravo Company-1st Battalion-- 24th Regiment-- 5th Marine Division. Because I lead, I am strong. I cannot let the men see my fe...more
Jeffrey Keeten
"Just below the grim tranquillity Mellas had learned to display, he cursed with boiling intensity the ambitious men who used him and his troops to further their careers. He cursed the air wing for not trying to get any choppers in through the clouds. He cursed the diplomats arguing about round and square tables. He cursed the South Vietnamese making money off the black market. He cursed the people back home gorging themselves in front of their televisions. Then he cursed God. Then there was no o...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 5* of five, but it deserves six

Newly Tarted Up Review! I...well...honestly, I have no idea what word to use to describe how I feel about MATTERHORN by Karl Marlantes. It's a superlative book, no adjectives need apply. I gave it five stars because that's the scale...but it deserves six.

Moved to my blog.
Kemper
Today I’ll be reviewing Matterhorn, a novel about the Vietnam war. Play your favorite classic rock song of the era while reading. Buffalo Springfield’s For What’s It’s Worth is always a popular choice. You could use Credence Clearwater’s Fortunate Son. For myself, I'll be listening to The End from The Doors and then plan on going into a full-on Martin Sheen-Apocalypse Now-freak-out as I lay on a bed staring up at the ceiling fan in a pair of tidy whiteys until I drink enough to punch out a mirro...more
Michelle
This is the best book I've read so far in 2010. I will say that again: This is the best book I've read so far in 2010.

I received Matterhorn from Powell's (Indiespensable #17, a wedding present, I decided) and avoided it for a while, busy with other books, and honestly, looking at it with trepidation because of its considerable size and content. I don't think I've ever read a book about the Vietnam War--would I understand it, I wondered, would it hold my interest? And I didn't understand and it...more
Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker

My husband is a history/military/war fanatic. The history and/or military channel is on all the time. I’ve fallen asleep with the military channel on and had some very naughty dreams of Dan Snow and little red and blue soldiers (see 20th Century Battlefields if you are wondering what the heck I’m talking about).

So, imagine my surprise when I wanted to read Matterhorn. I mean, come on, don’t I get enough “war” on tv? I guess not.

Imagine my delight when Matterhorn turned out to be much more than...more
Michael
I was never issued a draft card. I enlisted in the Marines right out of high school and I was still seventeen. I enlisted on a 90 day delay so by the time I hit the yellow foot prints I was then 18. The Marines agreed that I was too intelligent to be a grunt, so I enlisted on an aviation guarantee and went to school for two years learning electronics. I became an Ace from SACE. I became a radar technician.

I saw duty at MCAS Nam Phong, Thailand. The aircraft we supported flew bombing missions in...more
Jessica
Like many Americans these days, I have no direct experience of war, so reading books like this one is (hopefully) the closest I'll get to knowing what it's like.

As far as I can tell, war is the horrific dark antithesis to civilization. The central aim of what men have done since they squirmed out of a cave and lit a fire has been to make life longer, easier, and more comfortable for themselves. Granted, they often did this at the expense of others (women, differently-hued men, etc.), but better...more
Julie
“First of all, you can’t fall into hating the people you are killing. Because you’ll carry that hate with you longer than you will the actual killing itself. It is only by the grace of God that you are on one side and your enemy is on the other side. I often think, ‘I could have been born in North Vietnam.’”

Matterhorn author Karl Marlantes, August 20, 2010 The Times (London).


Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War launched onto the bestseller lists in 2010, when United States was entrenched in t...more
Steve
"People who didn't even know each other were going to kill each other over a hill none of them cared about."

This sentence, from Karl Marlantes' superb novel "Matterhorn", pretty much encapsulates the war in Vietnam for many people, including some who served there. The war as a whole (its origins and machinations) was more complex, as all wars are, but mostly only to the politicians who started and sustained it. Marlantes, who served as a Marine Lieutenant in Vietnam and earned various combat med...more
Matt
At the beginning of Citizens, Simon Schama's account of the French Revolution, Schama tells of former Chinese Premier Zhou En-lai's response to a question asking what the Revolution meant. Zhou En-lai was reputed to have said: "It is too soon to tell." That's how I feel about the Vietnam War.

My passion for history is, in my own estimation, above average. I read about it, I write about it, and I visit the locales, all with a certain fervor that will probably be well-detailed in my wife's court f...more
Lea Ann
I simply can't say enough good things about Matterhorn. It's an intricate story with a lot of characters to keep track of, but it's worth it. I found myself so invested in the book 100 pages in that I had to put it down several times just to calm down before I could go on reading.

The book mainly follows 2d Lt. Waino Mellas, a Princeton grad who after signing up for the Marine reserves before going to college gets shipped off to Vietnam after graduation. 600 pages later, you have only been in the...more
Judy
Surprise! This book receives 4.5 stars from me. Yes, from me who reluctantly reads war novels and winces at the mention of the Vietnam War and its politicalness.

Marlantes somehow pulls off placing the reader smack dab in the middle of the fighting without grossing the reader out. What's more, it isn't by distracting the reader from the characters either. I rooted for everyone in Bravo Company except the Colonel and Number 3. Hey, I felt part of the company.

How Marlantes whisked me through the w...more
Mike
Oct 20, 2012 Mike rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mike by: aggie_mike2003@yahoo.com
It was so good it hurt. Really good. Matterhorn makes it clear you will NEVER understand what it is like to go to war, unless you are one of the warriors in the fight. But he will drag you into a world that seems so immediate and real, you will come out drained. It took him 30 years to write the story and it paid off, every detail, scene and emotion is captured brilliantly. It may be “fiction” but it reads as ground truth. I guarantee any student of war will put this book on the permanent shelf....more
Readnponder
I listened to the audio version of this book. It was intense and deeply moving. I will not look at Vietnam or any war the same way. My husband was the radioman in a platoon humping in the jungle of Vietnam about a year after this book was set. Heretofore, he has not talked much about it. Matterhorn helped me understand what that period of his life was like. The book has also opened up conversation with my husband. There will be an event that happens to the characters in the book and I will ask m...more
Carol
If you read the reviews of Matterhorn you are going to see words like moving, riveting, heartbreaking, mesmerizing, masterful, epic, authentic, funny even and always unforgettable. All true and more.

Karl Marlantes knows of what he writes from his service as a Marine in Vietnam. He wanted to somehow explain this experience to his family and to share it with us. Vietnam was what I call "my war" meaning it was happening just as I was graduating and getting ready to start my adult life. It was part...more
Laurel
“The day was spent in weary stupefaction, hauling dead American teenagers to a stack beside the landing zone and dead Vietnamese teenagers to the garbage pit down the side of the north face.” (Matterhorn)

I wasn’t in Vietnam; I’ve never spoken to anyone about Vietnam who fought in the war yet I feel in my gut that this book by Marlantes speaks to the experience of many. Filled with images of oozing immersion foot, young faces smeared with purple Kool Aid, clinging leeches, young soldiers crawling...more
Hood
Bound: Sunpost Weekly June 17, 2010
http://bit.ly/d7emls
An Epic Song of War
Karl Malantes’ Matterhorn is One Bloody Battle Hymn

The creation story has now become legend. Karl Marlantes, a highly decorated Marine Corps second lieutenant, returns from the front lines in Vietnam and vows to write the proverbial Great American Novel.

“I sat down and pounded it out manically in first person,” he told Steven Kurutz of The Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy. “It was pure psychotherapy, psychodump. That helped...more
Chrissie
On completion:
I have written my thoughts as I progressed through this audiobook, so this will be just a short summary. As is evident from the comments below, when I began this book it caused me lots of trouble. I had trouble understanding the military jargon and acronyms. I had trouble keeping track of the numerous characters, their rank and personality traits. My confusion and the many characters made it difficult for me to empathize with any of them. I had trouble understanding what exactly wa...more
Larry Bassett
Matterhorn is yet another book about the war in Vietnam. Did we need another one? But, we are told, this is the one that is realistic, that really captures all the emotions of war. OK. So the book proves that war is hell in all its gore and glory and camaraderie. And did I mention the villainous generals and the endless drinking? The book is set in Vietnam in 1969 near Laos and the DMZ. It covers about three months of war focusing on a couple of dozen people.

I found myself unable to believe what...more
Tony
Marlantes, Karl. MATTERHORN. (2010). ****. This is a massive first novel written by an ex-marine who was highly decorated for his services in Vietnam. It took the author about thirty years to write the book. It starts out as mostly another ‘battle’ book, where brave soldiers overcome the odds against them and achieve their set objective. It soon changes, however, and explores the makeup of the men who compose the ranks of the First Platoon of Bravo Company. The time is 1969, just a year after th...more
Dan
At the very least Matterhorn, this debut novel about Marines in Vietnam in 1969, heaps honor, respect and even awe to those soldiers represented by the brave men of Bravo Company. Shortround, Hawke, Fischer, Fitch, Vancouver, Mole and China, among many. And especially Second Lt. Waino Mellas, who is the moral center of the story. He is someone who thinks about what it means to face death and the very nature of evil. Mellas is preoccupied with the mysteries of war and the jungle; what it means an...more
Sharon
Wow, wow, wow. I want to say a special, heartfelt thanks to every Vietnam veteran. This is a book I'll never forget. As many who served in this jungle have said better than I can, this is a powerful story of so many aspects of war, particularly this war. Everything was so nebulous, I don't see how anyone either managed to fight or came out alive. This is a story of the people of that war up and down the ranks. If you never fought in such a war (I didn't) and want to know what war is like, read t...more
Mike
Unforgettable. Marlantes took years to write Matterhorn. Clearly it served as the ultimate catharsis for him to exorcise the horrors of the Vietnam Conflict from his mind. Here is all the insanity of conflict. Here is all the hubris of ranking officers who never visit a battlefield, but whose rise in the ranks depend upon victories in places of no military value. The grunts are pawns on the chessboards of their ranking officers road to promotion. You will be reminded of Tim O'Brien's "The Things...more
Katie
From the cover: "...so authentic, so moving and so intense, and so relentlessly dramatic, that there were times I wasn't sure I could stand to turn the page..." (Mark Bowden)

My book group chose this, not me. And I can't wait to start it, along with the IRS ConstantAudit iPhone app and Fons and Porter's Love of Gastroenteritis.

9/16/12: Nine months after I started. I could have finished it by now. I could have had a baby. Looks like I decided to give that a miss, too. The process would have taken...more
Sarah
My Review: This is one of the most powerful and heart-wrenching books that I have ever read. Brilliantly written, Marlantes writes his truth, he shares his wounds, and he speaks honestly from the very core of his being. Brutal and terrifying, he exposes the Vietnam War for all that it was; deceitful, devastating, and a soul-crushing fact of life for the many soldiers who fought (and died) loyally for some unknown, inexplicable political purpose.

In the midst of horrific chaos and the suffocating...more
Bill
I'm sure this continues to be a very good book, if this type of thing is what you're after.
But I'm tiring of it after 170 pages: I really don't dig reading battle scenes.
It's not that I'm squeamish or over-sensitive, it's just that reading about strategies, combat manoevers, even actual fighting, makes my eyes glaze over and I get bored.
I was under the impression that this was a broader story of the Vietnam war. What this is (or what it is seeming to me, after what I've read, and peeking at the...more
Terri
Matterhorn. Karl Marlantes. What can I say? It has taken me a few weeks to leave this review because it has taken that long to find the words.
Matterhorn is powerful, emotional, gripping, gut wrenching, but most of all, it is haunting.
Haunting. Yes, that is it most of all, it is haunting in a way that is beyond anything that I have read for a very long time.
I want to thank Karl Marlantes for the experience and the insight.
I want to thank him for sharing with me a story that I have no doubt has...more
A.J. Howard
I've had several unsatisfying false starts on reviews of this one since I finished it, but I think it deserves some cursory recommendation, so here it goes. Matterhorn is one of the most emotionally affecting novels I've ever read, and by far the best war narrative I've ever read. The novel isn't a completely unique experience. Several aspects of the Vietnam narrative framework, jungle miseries, racial tension, malignant aloofness by superiors, etc. are present here. You have to resist the urge...more
Donna
I found the first third riveting. In this part, where the battle lines are being drawn, and everybody's right and everybody's wrong, describes the harrowing, foot-rotting conditions of jungle warfare. I knotted up with every noise. At this point, the learning curve of Mellas, the green officer, was harrowing and the balance between character and battle details just right. Tolstoy was a master of this.
Toward the middle it lost me. It started to feel too long and the acronyms too many. The charac...more
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A graduate of Yale University and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, Karl Marlantes served as a Marine in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation medals for valor, two Purple Hearts, and ten air medals. He is the author of Matterhorn, which won the William E. Colby Award given by the Pritzker Military Library, the Center For Fiction's Flaherty-Dunna...more
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“It was all absurd, without reason or meaning. People who didn't know each other were going to kill each other over a hill none of them cared about” 24 likes
“He ran as he'd never run before, with neither hope nor despair. He ran because the world was divided into opposites and his side had already been chosen for him, his only choice being whether or not to play his part with heart and courage. He ran because fate had placed him in a position of responsibility and he had accepted the burden. He ran because his self-respect required it. He ran because he loved his friends and this was the only thing he could do to end the madness that was killing and maiming them.” 22 likes
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