Review of "Seven Lives to Repay Our Country," short story by Edward Carpenter
The battle of Saipan pitted US Marines and Allied soldiers against the island's Japanese defenders in one of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific War. In this short story written by a US Marine, a pair of Japanese soldiers on Saipan confront the inevitability of defeat in different ways.
I had to mull over this story for awhile before I could write a review. War stories such as this really aren't my preferred genre so I wanted to make sure that my assessment was fair.
This story switches between two main viewpoints. The first viewpoint is a pair of Japanese grunts as they talk to each other and prepare for what will obviously be the final push. In between these conversations is the second "greater power" viewpoint. Basically, little snippets that read like a newspaper article with an obvious political agenda.
The exchange between the soldiers is really quite good. Carpenter does an excellent job showing two believable characters as they cope with the inevitability of death. There's a very elemental feel throughout this story. The soldiers understand that they have a duty but they have no big picture concept. They are there to follow orders.
What I actually wish was played up more were those newspaper article snippets. They are there to provide contrast for the soldier's conversation. I feel like that aspect of the story should have been more exaggerated. Many of the snippets read like this:
"...Heaven has not given us an opportunity. We have not been able to fully utilize the terrain. We have fought in unison up to the present time but now we have no materials with which to fight and our artillery for attack has been completely destroyed..."
So it gets the point across. But if they had been more about the glory and honor of serving one's country it would been an interesting foil for the grunts that have no idea what's going on except for the fact that they are going to die in about twenty-four hours.
But, overall, a very interesting read. Again, I'm not into war stories. But the fact that Carpenter wrote a piece that I had to mull over for days is something definitely in his favor.
Reviewed by Alain Gomez
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