Josh Mlot's Reviews > Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
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's review
Jun 12, 12

liked it
Read from June 01 to 12, 2012

I would be open to possibly adjusting this rating up a star in the future, but I feel like I need to let it settle a little bit. Consider it bordering on 3 1/2 stars.
I think part of my problem is that I had such high expectations for the book. In the end I enjoyed it and thought it was good, but wasn't quite the "great" I was expecting or hoping for.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is a story about the title's namesake character and the fellow soldiers in his unit. The group gained fame after a video of a raid and rescue went viral and earned news attention back in the United States. This is the story of their brief hiatus from the war and resulting trip back to the States for a "Victory Tour" in which they're paraded around the country and lauded for their efforts. The main location in the book is at a Dallas Cowboys game, where the soldiers are being included in a halftime show.

The book certainly hit the mark, in my opinion, in its skewering of American culture and how where how it frames war and the efforts of the troops. It brought me back to the discomfort I've felt every time I see random strangers mobbing and applauding soldiers here at home.

Story-wise, it's largely about Billy finding himself after his experiences in the war, and the juxtaposition of those lessons with the wildly different life back at home. The plot wasn't necessarily action packed, but it kept moving forward and kept me interested.

I think the characters were the strong point of the book, although they were not flawless. If there was an issue I had, it was that at times the characters came off just a bit like a caricature. They are always drawn in well-rounded, fully human terms, but there was just something about their presentation that felt a little off — like its how a movie might present the rugged personalities of soldiers and young men. I haven't spent much time around soldiers though, so maybe troops really do call each other "dawg" quite frequently.

But besides the occasionally cartoony slip, all the characters were likable yet flawed. I was definitely drawn in to Billy's dilemma and felt myself suffering along with his decision making. And Dime was probably my favorite character in the book as your stereotypical hardass military man, yet one that was at the same time not stereotypical at all.

I do think its an important book, as there haven't been tons of fiction about the war of the last decade. I think that over time it will settle in more and I will remember it more for its many fine qualities, and less for the thing or two that I didn't quite settle into.
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06/02/2012 page 50
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switterbug (Betsey) I share some of your views. I gave it 4 stars, and I was slightly disappointed for slightly different reasons. (Check my review if you have time).

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