I’m working on new stuff.
In honor of From Couch to Moon’s recent post on military science fiction, I looked through the archives for some relevant work.
Raw Feed (1990): Dream Baby, Bruce McAllister, 1989.
This book was reminiscent of Frederik Forsyth The Day of the Jackal. There is an inevitable but suspenseful feeling of doom. You know the mission to destroy the dikes above Hanoi is going to fail; you just don’t know how. Like The Day of the Jackal, the failure is last minute and surprising.
The novel’s theme of transcendence is also reminiscent of Charles L. Harness The Paradox Men (in putting protagonist in danger to provoke the development of extraordinary talents) and Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination.
The plot is also interesting in what McAllister doesn’t choose to do. He deemphasizes the commando action and the adventure aspect while telling a tale that is suspenseful, compelling, and realistic. He chooses to concentrate on the psychological aspects of war as symbolized in Mary Damico: the desire to kill and heal, the necessity of killing and the desire to greet the enemy with kindness and humanity.
I learned a great deal of what I believe to be accurate details as to how the war was fought and covert actions conducted.
If I have any complaints with the novel, it is with the lack of detail at crucial scenes of combat (particularly on the river) and few insights into the character of the oh-so-manipulative, cunning Colonel Bucannon. But these are not really flaws but the logical results of the viewpoint McAllister chose. Damico isn’t a soldier, but she, like a soldier, is most interested in protecting her friends.
The mission and details (particularly of the various ethnic groups I had never heard of in relation to the Vietnam War) were exciting, but the novel really took off with the startling incident at the dikes above Hanoi when the combat team becomes a gestalt mind transcending not only individual consciousness but time and space and gaze into alternate timelines and the past and future alternatives of their own lives.
McAllister obviously has some views on Vietnam, but he is subtle and not at all hectoring. He uses the concept of alternate histories in an original way and shows how U.S.-Vietnam relations could have proceeded. McCallister gives us a weird, wonderful few last chapters. The novel has not only a wonderful sense of Damico’s character; a novel and intriguing and plausible impetus for and application of paranormal powers; a surreal, original exploration of alternate worlds and psychic powers; and a compelling portrait of how the human mind reacts to the horror, stress, wonder, and comradeship of war.