Zombie, post-apocalyptic and dystopian books are like shoes - you can never have enough.
I would probably never read Matterhorn if it wasn't for a group on Goodreads that had several members raving about how despite the fact they aren't the biggest fan of war stories, they loved Matterhorn. And it's not that I don't love war stories, I've just had bad luck in the past with stories that have such a strong military focus - normally I need a bit of romance or home front drama to counteract endless passages about maneuvers and weapons.
But Matterhorn is so much more than a war story - it is an intricate look at one group of marines as they battle their way through jungles, leaches, ironic dehydration and hypothermia and an enemy that no one quite understands.
As with any such book there is a large cast of characters, but Mr. Marlantes obviously put a lot of work into his characterisation, and within just a few short chapters I was no longer struggling to remember who was who, and by the end I was so emotionally invested in all of the characters it was difficult to bid them goodbye.
Waino Mellas is the perfect choice of main character for a book like Matterhorn - he's a bit of a lost soul in the 'real' world and that manifests itself into an almost dangerous insecurity early on in the book and Marlantes isn't afraid to reveal Mellas' real feelings - very much confirming that men at war are first and foremost human beings.
There are alternating POVs, as Mellas' superior plays the political game and plots his strategy, and these are the only parts of the book that really lost me. Although they were pivotal to the story, these sections are the thing that I was most afraid of - heavy on strategy and political manipulation - and the only thing that I didn't love about Matterhorn.
Being about the Vietnam war, there was a lot more at play than just two countries fighting each other. Racial tension builds between the black and white soldiers, with some shocking results, and one part in particular towards the end had me gasping out loud.
There are, surprisingly, only a few really intense action scenes which feel very realistic - chaotic and heart-pounding, and a far bigger focus on the relationships formed between Mellas and the men of Bravo Company and between each other.
At 700 pages, this isn't a book you can sail through in a few hours, but it is incredibly addictive and every time I had to put it down for real life, I couldn't wait to get back to it and find out what would happen to the men of Bravo Company next.
Read more of my reviews at The Aussie Zombie