Fatal Light

Title: Fatal Light
Author: Richard Currey
Pub Date: 1988
Pages: 210
Genre: Vietnam War, Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction
Challenges: War thru the Ages

"It is that living, while it goes on, can seem like light itself, a perpetual slide of morning out of dawn's rare edge of perfect watery blue, light that leans and spills from a space in the sky between mountains and a roof of storm cloud, light escaping a doomed past to live again above our heads in passing glory."

Fatal Light is my first experience with Vietnam fiction. I specifically signed up for War thru the Ages Challenge again this year because I had no experience with Vietnam outside of some really great films (Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, Good Morning Vietnam, Born on the Fourth of July).

Richard Currey first published this book twenty years ago; it's been reprinted for its anniversary. The book is not a memoir, however, it is based on Currey's own experience as a medic in 1968.

Fatal Light is told in brief chapters which are snippets of the young soldier's life. The stream of conscious prose works. It's disjointed enough to feel as though you are truly inside the mind of the soldier, yet flows in manner necessary for it to be a seamless read.

The soldier is drafted and even though this is not a popular war, it is obvious that his family has a patriotic spirit that invokes a certain amount of obligation for the narrator. In fact, the father reminisces about his own military experience often with that *wink* *wink* *nudge* *nudge* manner about the booze and ladies that his son will experience.

When in Vietnam we are introduced to both a beautiful backdrop and a miserably existence. There is no character development, and no internal conflict. It's a book about existence. A sliver of someone's life that we sorta stumble upon. But I guarantee you, once you get inside the narrator's head, it's difficult to get out. This novella isn't surprising. I didn't walk away from it with a greater knowledge of the war or its effects on our soldiers. I did however walk away with a piece of humanity. Of experience.

It ends like a day in your life might end. There's no warm emotional fuzzies. There's no implication that the narrator cannot survive twenty years later in a world that he doesn't feel apart of. It ends as if you went to sleep on your day, and then you woke up. Does that make sense? It just stops. Mid life.

In any event, I loved this book for the reality that it evokes. And I highly recommend it. I don't know how it compares to other Vietnam wars, but it's got to be good if it's re-released, right?


  1. This doesn't sound like a book I would normally pick up, but you made it sound intriguing for sure. I've really not read too much about Vietnam, fiction or non-fiction, so maybe this one would be a place to start!

  2. Thanks for participating in the Vietnam War Reading Challenge. It will post on April 28. It is linked on the reviews page as well.

  3. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention. I'll keep it in mind for the challenge.

    We posted about your review here on War Through the Generations.

    Diary of an Eccentric


Talk to me!