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Dog Soldiers

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  5,821 ratings  ·  266 reviews
In Saigon during the waning days 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 horribly wrong for him. Dog Soldiers perfectly captures the underground mood of America in the 1970s, when amateur drug dealers and hippies encountered profite ...more
Paperback, 342 pages
Published April 2nd 1997 by Mariner Books (first published 1974)
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3.71  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,821 ratings  ·  266 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Oct 22, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: vietnam

“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
Aug 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Relentless and dirty.

First published in 1973, Robert Stone’s Dog Soldiers is a hip and groovy but graphic and ugly depiction of a time and a place when our culture, our world was at a crossroads and Stone embraces the suck with the fervor of a Marine at Parris Island.

First, Stone describes the scene in language contextually correct for the time. This has the feel and sound of a Dirty Harry film and behind the early 70s prose a reader can almost hear a Lalo Schifrin score grooving out in stacked
Dec 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: blog, vietnam
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
Jun 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Vit Babenco
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“If you think someone’s doing you wrong, it’s not for you to judge. Kill them first and then God can do the judging.”
The time was rough and the time was wild. The counterculture was on the rise and then it was in decline. Reaction and decadence were settling in.
“If you haven't fought for your life for something you want, you don't know what's life all about.”
In the tumultuous times many are sucked in by the dangerous undercurrents and the price of survival grows high.
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
Apr 17, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Aug 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: american-fiction
The conventional wisdom goes that this book is a scathing examination of how far the ideals of the flower power generation had fallen by the mid 1970s. A would-be heroin smuggler returns from Vietnam to find that his real war is in America, amidst a revolving cast of of dissipated junkies, sleazy hustlers, violent thugs and burnt out old hippies.

Maybe as a millenial reading this in 2015, I'm just generationally too far removed from the social fabric of this age to really 'get it,' but I thought
Kurt Reichenbaugh
Dec 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Were Americans ever really naive or is that just something common myth tries to convince us of. Personally, I don't think so. The 60's is a duplicitous reflection of history that depends on where it was one stood at the time. Were you in the back of the bus, in Stanford or Harvard, at Woodstock, or in a POW camp? I was a child of the 70's and I'll be the first to admit that my mind used to go into "shutdown" mode whenever some older suburbanite started waxing poetic about what a free spirit they ...more
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,
Enjoyable, but did not really get under my skin.
Eve Kay
May 16, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: druggie
It suddenly dawned on me that I read too many books on taking drugs. They tend to get into the details alot and for someone who doesn't do them I sure know how!
I'm just gonna let that linger here and not comment whether it's a good thing or bad.
I like Stone's writing style and that's why I've continued to read his work even though the story here wasn't anything special. Actually, it was pretty simple and in retrospect I could have easily figured out the ending but for some reason it surprised me
Jun 29, 2017 rated it really liked it

Michael Herr wrote, in Dispatches, "I couldn't tell the Vietnam veterans from the rock and roll veterans." This could apply to Robert Stone's characters in general, all of whom seem haunted by the 60s in one way or the other. On one hand, Dog Soldiers is not really about Vietnam- we only spend 50-60 pages there- but Vietnam is always in the background, as it was in A Flag for Sunrise, the other novel of Stone's I've read. The experience of being there changes his characters forever. As one of th
May 14, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Ben Bush
Jun 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2014
The awesomeness of this book comes and goes, but if you're interested tight brilliant sleazeball dialogue with metaphysical undertones, there's sections of this that were made for you.
Oct 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
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.
Claudia Putnam
Aug 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
What do you think, do Vietnam War novels belong on the historical fiction shelf, now? How about novels about the 60s drug culture, because wow, that sure seems different than what we've got going on now. I mean, we've got junkies, and tbh I have no idea. And I mean, I smoked a bunch of pot in high school and college, dropped some acid, did a little coke. But I quit all that by age 23 and felt a little stunned to see that people my age were advocating for the legalization of pot.... oh, it's not ...more
Jun 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was one of the toughest, liveliest, most biting things I have ever read - real, funny, and sharp. Stone writes in the Hemingway style - short, clear sentences, terse and direct. But he is no Hemingway as far as his concerns go, althou the macho content of his writing is reasonably high. He is interested in moral and emotional ambiguity, greed, toughness, and some of the stranger conflicts that can occur between men and men, and men and women.

The story follows a small-time journalist named C
Mar 13, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jun 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: time-100
Another one that should be filed under "wanted to like more than I did." The beginning here is strong, with the tourist reporter John Converse in Vietnam and trying to get into a drug deal on his way out. There are some funny observations in here, and the one that made me laugh the most is when Converse thinks, "In a world where flying men hunted down elephants, people were just going to want to get high." This in reference to rumors that American helicopters were shooting at elephants as they h ...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
Feb 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Incredible, brilliant, intense Vietnam era novel--nobody paints a scene like Robert Stone, stunning dialogue. National Book Award winner.
Jun 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
[3.5 stars]

Dog Soldiers has elements of noir and elements of a crime novel but really seems to be about the malaise of '60s idealism curdling into something half-baked, cheap, and nasty in the early '70s. If it were any more jaded, cynical, and hard-bitten than it is it would hurt your teeth. The waning days of the Vietnam War are a backdrop, as freelance journalist John Converse agrees to help smuggle a large quantity of heroin into the U.S. His reasons for doing this seem to amount to, why the
Sep 15, 2017 rated it did not like it
A drug deal gone bad, lots of guns and violence is usually fodder for a good novel. This book was founded on a good idea and had all three of those elements. Unfortunately the writing was awful. As the story progressed the writing did improve some, but the last 30 pages were almost unbearable. It seems like Stone struggled to sound like someone or something he is not. When you rely on sentences like, "The flashing lights blinded him and oppressed his brain." You are struggling.
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SSG: Spy/Spec-Ops...: Robert Stone 3 29 Aug 02, 2015 08:03PM  
Stone's genius with characters 6 20 Aug 29, 2014 07:20PM  

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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
“I’ve been waiting my whole life to fuck up like this.” 38 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.” 19 likes
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