November 28, 2010

Retreat, Hell!

Retreat, Hell!
W. E. B. Griffin


(November 28, 2010)

The tenth and, apparently, the last of book in The Corps, this brings the saga up to the Chinese intervention in Korea. Griffin excels at finding a good story about soldiers who are sitting around and waiting for things – bad things, most likely – to happen. He is a master at generating plot from the commonplace, capturing the tension of waiting for something to happen, and the frustration of coping with omnipotent, arbitrary, and erratic superiors.

Griffin is a guilty pleasure but also a more thoughtful writer than may first appear. He can make it fun to read about sitting around, preparing for something to happen, trying to find out what is going on; this was Michener’s territory (Tales of the South Pacific) and in a way it was Wouk’s (The Caine Mutiny), and though they were there first, Griffin deserves a place beside them.

It seems clear that at least one more volume was intended – we’re left with loose ends in several subplots and the middle of the Korean War seems a strange place to leave off. But illness and other commitments may have intervened, and we should be grateful for what we have.I disliked this volume on first reading and bumped into it accidentally because I wanted something light and engaging to read on a cold and gloomy November evening and, though I can't disagree that this is the weakest volume of the series, it’s still tons of fun.