For Corporal Steven Downs, Beirut was a struggle to separate the civilian from the soldier, his distrust of the politicians' decisions from the military mission.
For all the Marines serving in Lebanon, it was another war in a foreign country where the enemy could be anywhere or anyone. Faced with Griffin's court-martial for engaging the enemy against orders, these two young men find themselves questioning their faith in themselves, their commanders, and eventually that which above all else they must have faith in, the Corps.
Distant Valor tells the story of the United States' ill-fated mission to end the war for Lebanon, which ended in the barracks bombing that killed nearly 300 Marines.
©2008 C. X. Moreau; (P)2008 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
"Moreau uses the building block of authentic detail to craft a solid tale about a little-known, undeclared war." (Publishers Weekly)
"With an ever-growing concern over acts of terrorism, Moreau's book has come along at a fortuitous time." (Booklist)
I am a blind lawyer and aspiring writer, trying to read a little bit of everything but partial to sci-fi and military fiction.
This is a story about two things, a ground-level view of what it was like for those sent to keep the peace in Lebanon during the 1980s, and an unblinking depiction of how the marine corps as an institution can fail its people and thereby its mission.
The story that roots itself in patrols through unfriendly villages, firefights to hold isolated positions, and desperate efforts to rescue survivors from the rubble of a building housing hundreds of marines, is in a word, riveting. The author's own experience appears to serve him well in providing environmental and procedural details that make the marine presence at their airport complex lively and real, something that makes its destruction all the more impactful.
I cannot personally speak to the authenticity of the dynamics between mid-level and senior marine NCOs and their officers, but the catastrophic consequences of putting the wrong man in a position of trust ring true. For all of that though, the story paints a portrait of men doing the best they can, given a terrible situation, and making up for disadvantages with cunning and a grim determination to do what's right. The only trouble comes when deciding what's right becomes a bit fuzzy.
In the 1990s, Brilliance Audio used to put out unabridged audiobooks that put different tracks on the left and right channels of cassettes, so you could get three hours on one tape, and thus cut the cost down dramatically. Judging by the simple boxes and styrofoam inserts, I'd guess they weren't spending much money on packaging either. And probably because of the medium their product would go out on, the recording sounds a bit dated today, with a distorted quality that's hard to describe. The narrator tries his best though, giving characters accents, and even employing limited effects or processing to render things like radio traffic with a neat bit of distortion. The reading is slow though, with silences that can weigh heavily on your patience.
All in all though, any anachronism in the performance or in the content is worth disregarding in favor of a great story about men at (what people refuse to acknowledge as) war. I think this story is in fact more timely now than at the time of its publication, and is well worth the price.
I rarely write reviews, but I felt compelled to write one for this book. This is probably the best novel I have read (listened to) in quite a while, at least as it regards our Corps. As an old (Vietnam era) Marine, it is clear the narrator was not, as he mispronounced several words any Marine would know. However, once you get past that small fact, you will find the author most definitely, is all Marine. This describes the Marines in Lebanon, in brutally honest fashion, better than I've ever had communicated to me. I highly recommend this. Semper Fi!
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