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Life During Wartime
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Life During Wartime

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  900 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
David Mingolla soon learns that escape from the rotten jungles of Guatemala is impossible – he is once more a pawn of secret, ruthless forces lusting for world domination. They try to dominate David by ordering him to kill the woman he loves.
Paperback, SF Masterworks, 432 pages
Published June 8th 2006 by Gollancz (first published 1987)
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mark monday
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look inside, young soldier. look inside your fellow soldier, see the nothing there, see the nothing that has been put there as a reason why, see the nothing that has become a something, a reason for being a reason for acting a reason for dying. look inside your own self, young soldier. see the slowly building anger, see the red. you can shape that anger, turn it into a weapon, make it a place you can live, make it a reason for moving forward. it is the heart of you.

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Soldier of America! shine br
It's going to be very hard to describe this work as anything other than genius.

Almost from the very start, I found myself slowing down and being dragged into the hellish nightmare of war and such densely imaginative prose that I discovered that there was nothing left for me except to become completely submerged and try to breathe the canned air that Shepard provided. I became Mingolla. I began seeing patterns in the very fabric of reality that might help me survive his life. I became paranoid. I
Oct 12, 2015 Justine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, favourites-2015
I originally rated this 4 stars, but on reflection, I raised it to 5.

I feel like I should say something about this book because it was a such a very compelling read. It was one of those books that was almost surreal because while I was reading it I did not really know exactly where it was going, but that was actually OK. It isn't really a war story, psychic or otherwise. It is more of a story of self discovery and love. The protagonist is incredibly flawed, but that makes him all the more human
Aug 23, 2008 Adam rated it it was amazing
Tacking this weird moody and occasionally brilliant novel onto what is arguably his greatest work, the novella “R&R”, may have earned Shepard the ire of some people. Taking a pitch perfect work and then connecting it to this somewhat messy work is risk, thankfully it occasionally pays off. A picaresque journey through the surreal brambles of his imagination and anger that is more a collection of stories and incidents than a novel, tied together with character, setting, and opaque over-all ...more
Maggie K
Jan 09, 2016 Maggie K rated it it was amazing
Wow. Trippy thought provoking ode to the frivolity of power....with a sense of place like no other. I have come to believe that Lucius Shepard is a genius!

Set in a war in the Guatemalan jungle, A soldier is pulled into a scheme of dueling clans of mind-control using the distraction of war to dominate....
The sense of place is astounding, the characters deep. I kept having to put the book down because I was tripping up, feeling like I was THERE.

Ross Lockhart
Jan 03, 2009 Ross Lockhart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While Lucius Shepard’s 1987 chronicle of near-future Central-American jungle warfare wears openly a uniform of post-Vietnam-era disappointment and is decorated with the emblems of Cold War paranoia, it hasn’t aged badly. Shepard’s prose is hallucinogenically vivid, his plotting Borgesian, his ideas, larger than life. Protagonist David Mingolla’s odyssey, from hesitant trooper to lethal psy-ops assassin, is darkly picaresque, if at times episodic. From time to time, Shepard’s asides ...more
Jul 11, 2015 Ignacio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Durante cerca de 200 páginas he leído Vida en tiempo de guerra sin tener ni idea de hacia dónde iba. Aterrizas en una centroamérica futura que es básicamente la de los 80, saturada de guerras de guerrillas, y te mueves con su protagonista según conoce personajes, escucha sus relatos y vive alguna situación tensa. Sin embargo a ritmo de perezoso se vislumbra la dirección en la que avanza. Primero en lo que se refiere al crecimiento de ese soldado que participa en la contienda sin motivación ...more
Apr 22, 2010 DoctorM rated it really liked it
Suppose Joan Didion and Robert Stone did bad acid with Wm. Gibson and stumbled into a German Expressionist stage production of "Apocalypse Now"... That would be...close to "Life During Wartime". No one remembers Central America these days, since war in the new century is all about deserts and mountains and cities amongst the Paynim, but...this is a novel that remains darkly powerful and engrossing.
Ben Loory
Oct 20, 2014 Ben Loory rated it really liked it
shepard is a stylist, a visionary, a dramatist, and a philosopher; he's got it all and it's all incredible. the only thing wrong with this book is that it feels like seven or eight novellas stitched together... and so from here i go to his actual novellas... where i probably should've started to begin with.
Jul 20, 2012 Outis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, surrealism, drugs
This evocative and whimsical book is remarkable in more than one way.
It meanderingly plays with facile thrills, pulpish manly antics, vulgarity, the grotesque and the nonsensical but remains essentially serious and meaningful.
The plot seems disjointed and is often aimless but in the end I thought (unlike some reviewers) that Shepard managed to pull his stuff together and that that resolution was provided. I may have missed the significance of some of the happenings but I think some of the most r
Apr 19, 2014 Bin rated it liked it
Shelves: have
The beginning third was excellent, introducing the bizzare Vietnam-esque war in Central America. Drug addled grunts and psychic soldiers fight a surreal and horrific war, and Shepard's writing does a wonderful job illustrating the insanity of war in his poetic prose. Eventually though, I felt like this book just wandered off somewhere never quite as interesting. While there are both beautiful and horrific sections throughout, I felt like there was quite a lot of filler and somewhat forced ...more
Apr 21, 2014 Colleen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
Takes place in an alternative future in Central America where a years long war is being waged. The story follows Mingolla, a disaffected US soldier, who is trying to find some hope and maybe even love in the bars and whorehouses in towns near the war front. Technology and drugs enhance the soldiers' skills. His parents back home in New York can't understand, and the war isn't something civilians care about. He's a bit psychic - lucks into a bunch of weird situations. His friends want to desert ...more
Feb 11, 2008 Tt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is what sci-fi should be all about. Sinister hints, shadowy wars, occultism.. pure sense of wonder. Shepard is a genius.
Aug 20, 2008 Marie rated it it was amazing
One of the most intense and gratifying books I've ever read.
Sep 05, 2016 Bbrown rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Life During Wartime stands head and shoulders above any other work I've read in the military science fiction subgenre. It is not without its flaws, but it has an interesting setting, original structure, and actual insightful observations about both life and storytelling that I hadn't come across before. It is the best work of science fiction I've read in a long time, and perhaps the best book period I've read in a long time, to the extent that I almost gave this book my first five-star rating in ...more
Roddy Williams
‘In the jungles of Guatemala, David Mingella is slugging it out amongst the rotting vegetation and his despairing fellow foot soldiers. He knows he is nothing but an expendable pawn in an endless war. On R&R a few miles beyond the warzone he meets Debora – an enigmatic young woman who may be working for the enemy – and stumbles into a deadly psychic conflict where the mind is the greatest weapon. Thoughts are used to kill and escape is impossible, but David is a man with a mind of his own ...more
Simon Mcleish
Nov 27, 2012 Simon Mcleish rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in July 2001.

The central character of Shepard's second novel, David Minghella, is an American soldier in a pointless jungle war, this one in Guatemala rather than Vietnam. The mind powers of the Psicorps play an important part in the fighting, but Minghella won't volunteer when he passes their tests. A meeting with a beautiful psychic woman changes his mind, and after his training he discovers that the war isn't what it seems; it is actually part of a centuri
Nov 12, 2012 Chadwick rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf, war-fiction
This is set in a near future where the Cold War has spilled over into an amorphous hot war in Latin America, but at its heart it's a fever dream retelling of the United States' imperialistic adventures in the territories to the south. Drug-addicted super-soldiers gone feral, psychic assassins, computers that believe themselves to be God, and installation artists who work in warzones are the characters that unravel across the fabric of the book. There are lengthy passages that I am still not ...more
Cécile C.
Sep 20, 2009 Cécile C. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
This is modern SF in all senses of the phrase: technology is not progress, decay, violence and sex abound, the use of drugs by characters can be felt even in the style (a strange craft in the jungle compared to an evil Easter egg forgotten there by a giant child...), the pace of the story is fast at its steadiest. It is also modern SF at its best: absolutely none of this is gratuitous, which I feel is very rare. For people who like this genre, it is going to be a great experience. For the rest, ...more
Bill Hanson
Aug 01, 2013 Bill Hanson rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books of all. Lucius Shepard has the knack of writing personally for me. I'm not saying he actually does this, but his phrasing, usage , what have you, always seems tailor-made for my enjoyment. I respond to it. Kind of hard to explain, but it gets under my skin (in a good way). This novel exhibits some of Mr. Shepard's strengths. He does exotic locales well. damaged protagonists, and elements of, for want of a better word. One of the few books I have reread, ...more
Mar 09, 2011 Will rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books, ever. Blindsight is technically better, but Life During Wartime is just there. It sounds like the voice in the back of my head decided it would do better to write down what it was doing 20 years in the future in South America and then have it published.

I can't say too much about this book because so much of it can't be said. On my best days I wish I could write like Lucius Shepard, but for now I'm just glad I can read him.
Nov 20, 2013 Alex rated it liked it
I picked this one up because I heard it was an allegory of the Vietnam War, in which I have an interest. I thought it more indicative of the time it was written (1987) and the wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala which Reagan's America had a hand in to varying degrees. A good read nonetheless.
Mar 23, 2014 Stuart rated it really liked it
Set in the future, but not really sci-fi. Set in a war, but not really a war story. More than anything, it's a love story. A hallucinogenic, nonlinear, postmodern love story, with occasional passages of lyrical brilliance.
Jun 07, 2013 Salimbol rated it really liked it
A kind of SF version of 'Apocalypse Now', with the same miasmic feel, this is bleak, unsettling, graphically violent and sexual, and intelligent. While the overarching plot framework is weak at times, the book shines when it's focusing on the minds and societies destroyed by war.
Aug 03, 2013 Charles rated it really liked it
Not at all what I thought it would be. a very interesting perspective analysis of human interactions during wartime.
Oct 25, 2014 Karl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shepard's second book. A bit on the political side. But great nun-the-less.
Greg O'byrne
Oct 07, 2014 Greg O'byrne rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Sticks with you.
Feb 14, 2009 SL rated it really liked it
niiiiice. gimme some frost...
Chris Gager
Oct 19, 2015 Chris Gager rated it liked it
Maybe I'll get to it someday! Lyn's recommendation...
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Brief biographies are, like history texts, too organized to be other than orderly misrepresentations of the truth. So when it's written that Lucius Shepard was born in August of 1947 to Lucy and William Shepard in Lynchburg, Virginia, and raised thereafter in Daytona Beach, Florida, it provides a statistical hit and gives you nothing of the difficult childhood from which he frequently attempted to ...more
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“The effort mined a core of dizziness inside him. He resisted it, but then realizing that there was nothing attractive about consciousness, nothing he cared to know about the someone in charge of death and butterflies, he let himself go spiraling down past layers of darkness and shining wings, darkness and mystical light, and a memory of pain so bright that it became a white darkness wherein he lost all track of being.” 6 likes
“The scene was horrid, yet it had the purity of a stanza from a ballad come to life, a ballad composed about tragic events in some border hell.” 3 likes
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