It is the calm before the storm. At the end of 1967 it seems the war is winding down. Soon the General Offensive will be launched on the Tet holiday. The 302nd North Vietnamese Division has moved to the province of Song Nhanh to participate in the offensive and planned uprising. Lead by General Vo Le Duan who has doubts about the wisdom of this plan but is committed to it. Major Shannon on a patrol of the Cambodian border witnesses the arrival of the division but the American leadership doesn’t want to hear about it as it goes against the official narrative that the war is already won. Soon Vietnamese and Americans will clash in the provincial capital.
This is probably the finest Vietnam War fiction book that I have ever read. The setting is the fictional province and city of Song Nhanh. Both the 203rd NVA and 12th US Army Divisions are fictional units. The setting is an amalgamation of parts of the real Tet offensive. What really makes this story is the intricate detail of all the characters both Vietnamese and American for the generals to the lowliest private. The action is intense and realistic. Both sides are treated fairly. The sense that you get from this book is how all the soldiers are just caught up in events and doing their best to survive. Even the generals seem to have little control over the events. For Duan it is the old men who are desperate to see the south liberated before they die. They are deaf to the possibility that the people will not rise up. For the Americans its the official narrative that the President pushes that the war is already won.
Chris Bunch and Allan Cole were known for mostly space opera sci-fi so this was something new for them. The biography of the authors is that they are both journalists and friends since high school. One was in Vietnam although didn’t say if a soldier or journalist. A lot of research went into this and it clearly shows that the writers have a good understanding of the people during the war. A good book to read if you are interested in the Vietnam War and the Tet offensive.