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 profiteering cops and professional killers—and the price of survival was dangerously high.
Dog Soldiers Robert Stone
Let’s clear something up; the novel is not primarily about Vietnam— except as that tormented country reflects the loss of meaning and sense in the US, specifically California. .
The book is “about” the death of 60s freedom and in idealism in the US. The locales and episodes in fact are inspired by real life characters— the end of Hicks quite literally a reimagining of Neal Cassidy, the Merry Prankster who drove Ken Kesey’s psychedelic “bus” and prior to that Jack Kerouac’s On the Road buddy. In fact, the broken down guru in Mexico is based (rather unfairly, IMO) on Ken Kesey— who at one time did flee south of the border, and whose La Honda in the Santa Cruz mountains of CALIFORNIA forms the surreal terrain of the novel’s climax.
It is brilliantly written, unremittingly dark— to a fault. For those fans of Stone of whom I am a most enthusiastic one, his greatest flaw in his schematic portrayal women, a weakness triumphantly overcome in the marvelous Outerbridge Reach.
Descent into darkness
Conrad lay a heavy shadow across stone's writing and it's never more apparent than in this dark tail of soldiers and journalists and hippies living outside the boundaries of life as they fight and screw and double cross over a single brick of dope.
100 Words or Less
Read the first couple of chapters, but then I stopped.
I suppose my problem is age – I’m old enough to remember the hopelessness and corruption of Viet Nam, which was overexposed decades ago. While this novel might have been ground breaking in 1974, backtracking 40 years didn’t open any new insights, or explore any new characters.
I can see this novel working for someone younger, interested in that time frame. And I can also see the connections between Nam and our ongoing wars now. Yet, overall, this wasn’t a novel that offered me anything new.