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13 Cent Killers: The 5th Marine Snipers in Vietnam

13 Cent Killers: The 5th Marine Snipers in Vietnam - John Culbertson this is a "B-list" war book, meaning that it's not terrible C-quality slop but it falls short of being one of those amazing A-list books like [b:Stalingrad|542389|Stalingrad The Fateful Siege, 1942-1943|Antony Beevor|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348217283s/542389.jpg|42137] or [b:The Fall of Berlin|42661|The Fall of Berlin 1945|Antony Beevor|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1312049741s/42661.jpg|300328] or [b:Lone Survivor|711901|Lone Survivor The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10|Marcus Luttrell|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1344265535s/711901.jpg|1623890]. I mean, if you just look at the cover of this book, it doesn't have the absolute 'finesse' quality of the big-5 publishers; it's merely a competent design that somehow doesn't seem quite Barnes & Noble display quality. so, actually--judge the book by the cover.

overall Culbertson displays competence and even-handedness in his work, with the exception pointed out above by 'Armen,' in this one scene where he imagines a Ho Chi Minh conversation and expects us to believe that he was present there. aside from this one weakness, overall there was little exaggeration, not too much 'long lists of names' problem, little or no irrelevancy, and he avoided some flaws such as over-speculation, white-washing, too aggressive service-rivalry these sorts of things.

the problem was not so much what was written as what we missed out on--Culbertson missed the opportunity to compare a sniper's task to serial killing. as most infantry soldiers agree, a sniper is a distinct psychological type; they don't operate in groups; they spend long hours or even days waiting for a kill; they kill a specific high-value individual, and then they flee. I believe Pentagon studies have shown that psychopaths aren't actually well suited for this work, but a sniper during wartime is clearly special. what thoughts are going through the sniper's head as he waits seven hours in his hide? where are the childhood memories that surface? what odd realizations do we make other than "vietnamese snipers used grenade traps to disguise their work, american snipers were very focused on the numbers of their kill, preferably long-distance" ? john krakauer probably could have elicited another three chapters.

(the characters that run through this book do not seem to have distinct "good guy / bad guy" personalities, which, of course, sounds like a unfair complaint to make about a war book, but i guess readers in the end want drama more than want to know the exact weight of a match grade cartridge.)

if you are obsessed with reading war books, or just need a book to cover a two hour train ride, 13 Cent Killers is worth a look. but, it cannot be recommended for non war-readers in general.