The Farther Shore (Milkweed National Fiction Prize)

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9781571310675: The Farther Shore (Milkweed National Fiction Prize)

In his unforgettable debut novel, Matthew Eck puts readers inside the mind of a confused young soldier caught in the fog of unexpected warfare. A small unit of soldiers from the U.S. Army is separated from their command and left for dead. Their only option is to keep moving, in hope that they’ll escape the marauding gangs and clansmen who appear to rule the city. Josh, a young soldier, and his battle buddies” are left to wander in this hostile territory. A series of horrifying, often violent encounters leaves only a few of them alive. The Farther Shore is a short, stark war novel in which the characters are both haunting and inhuman, natives and invaders alike. The emerging story reflects a new kind of military engagement, with all the attendant horrors and difficulties of fighting in a strange new postmodern battlefield.

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From Booklist:

*Starred Review* Three American soldiers are stranded in a war-blasted desert city in Africa. The heat, the sand, the impenetrable darkness are all exacting a toll. The enemy is everyone and anyone, even your comrades. The mission is vague, preposterous. The people are starving, desperate, and violent, tyrannized by warlords and clan loyalty. Packs of emaciated dogs roam through smoking ruins. All is obscured by haze, dust, and fear. Josh, a good boy from Wichita, Kansas, struggles to stay rational, vigilant, honorable. Santiago, their lieutenant, tells him, "Stop thinking so much." Their situation goes from bad to worse to all-out nightmare as they barely escape the city and set out for the sea. Every word in Eck's first novel is as solid as a stone. Every moment of crisis feels authentic in its terror and tragedy; indeed, Eck served as a soldier in Somalia at age 18. Heir to Hemingway, and damn near as powerful as Cormac McCarthy in The Road (2006), Eck has created a contemporary version of The Red Badge of Courage in this tale of one young man's trial by fire in the pandemonium of war in an age of high-tech weaponry and low-grade morality. Seaman, Donna

From Publishers Weekly:

A unit of young American soldiers lost in an unnamed city in an unnamed desert nation struggle to maintain a tenuous grip on their lives in this haunting debut novel by Eck, a veteran of U.S. Army efforts in Somalia. Narrator Joshua Stantz recounts his wanderings with such quiet objectivity that the horrors he witnesses evoke winces and poetic details stand out in contrast: there are wounds that hiss and bubble, but there is also a girl's lone eyelash falling from the creases of a letter. Early in the book, Joshua is part of a group of six soldiers who, separated from their unit and under murky circumstances, kill two boys, but almost everything else about their circumstances remains unclear: where exactly are they and why? and who is the enemy? With these questions in the air, the formal rules of engagement become all but useless as the troops navigate a landscape rife with dangers—warring clans, armed thugs, the elements. Eck goes beyond the on-the-ground chaos of battle to capture the physical and psychological disorientation of modern war. (Oct.)
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