As in all of his novels, Shaara explores the conflict through the eyes of a variety of people. In this book, he shows the war through three main characters, an American General, a Chinese General, and an American PFC soldier. In the beginning, I was hoping for more main characters, perhaps a Chinese soldier or someone closer to MacArthur. But, as the novel progresses, I came to realize the reasoning. First, the "average" Chinese soldier was really a non-factor, as they, sadly, were thought of by their "superiors" as just a piece of meat to be thrown into the maelstrom. They did not last long enough to flesh out an individual character. And as far as MacArthur goes, Shaara shows that the sycophants surrounding him were basically as mindless as the Chinese soldiers, blindly throwing themselves into whatever the "superior" wanted, to curry favor for their own careers.
In this novel, there is none of the "glory" found in his earlier novels. No feelings of a job well done, or of giddy patriotism. Shaara expresses the drabness, the drudgery, the feeling of "why are we here" and "what is the endgame" of the Korean conflict. His descriptions of the weather, the cold, the misery, make you want to sit in front of a fire and warm up yourself. You're left with a bleak feeling of "why". Why were we there? What were we trying to achieve? Why was there no oversight over MacArthur?
And talk about timely! I couldn't help but wonder if history might be repeating itself. Today we again find ourselves with a crisis in Korea. We find ourselves again with a leader who seems to bend the facts to what he wants to see, all in the interest of satisfying his outlandish ego. My hope is that this time, someone steps in and prevents another disaster. That we don't back down to the ego, that we think things through. Because this time, if China intervenes again, the stakes are much much higher than they were in the last Korean War!
Bravo, Mr. Shaara!