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Full Metal Moon

A Novel of the Vietnam War

Richard Sullivan

Tapa dura

February, 1968, Hue City, Republic of Vietnam. Lance Corporal T. A. Tomlin and what's left of his ragtag squad of Marines huddle behind broken walls at dawn. Phantom jets scream above the ruins of the city. The platoon commander brandishes his map and gives them a mission: Find a temple. What do we do when we get there? Tomlin shouts over engine roar and explosions. Somebody tells me, I tell you, LT yells back. Find the temple, find some cover and hang tight.

The morning started badly and didn't improve. Running a gauntlet of AK-47 and mortar fire, only two of them stumble onto the temple. Where the rest of his Marines have gotten to, Tomlin has no idea. But then, he's not thinking all that well, courtesy of a steel fragment newly in residence in the back of his head. His self-apppointed mentor, LCpl M. Debro, has his own problems--a rifle round passing the back and lung. No, things wern't going well. Particularly since an extremely unhappy enemy soldier--a cross between a Greek harpy and a devoted mother, who takes holding a grudge to the next level--is lodged behind a window not too far away and with her tuned-up sniper rifle she's running up an impressive body count amidst the strange outfit that just roped in nearby from an unmarked helicopter in the middle of a firefight. Tomlin would've been confused enough even without the half ounce of steel lodged at the base of his skull.

And then there's Buddha, whatever Buddha's doing there. An NVA regiment en route to join the party. Suddenly, no jets anywhere--there's never a Phantom when you need one. The only landing zone a hundered yards away is going to be hot, but beggars can't be choosers. It's suicide, but the chopper pilot's got a pair and he's inbound for the medevac. If Tomlin can get Debro there, voila! Look up at Red Cross girls from a hospital bed. Trouble is, with Tomlin's mental processes on a runaway train and Debro wtaching a private screening of a cowboy movie, a hundred yards can be a hundred miles. And Tomlin has no way of knowing the woman with the sniper rifle has swapped it out for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher that has "helocopter" written all over it.

There's more. Buddha gets his say. A bit of nostalgia involving a Roman galley creeps in. There's a moon launching (powered by Poseidon) and a trip to Hell complete with scattered ghouls, a powder-white drill instructor and the Devil beating his wife. There's sharks and seagulls, Jimi Hendrix and Red Skelton, Washington crossing the Delaware, Captain Ahab and even a Glossary. There's lava lamps, commentary on politics, a nine-fingered piano concert and a prehistoric shellfish.

Not to mention a full moon in daylight, the villain of the piece.

It's not your grandfather's war story.

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