Excerpt from Lost Soldiers by James Webb, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Lost Soldiers

by James Webb

Lost Soldiers
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Aug 2001, 384 pages
    Aug 2002, 384 pages

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Quang Nam Province, Viet Nam

"Typhoon," said Brandon Condley, his hard gray eyes expertly searching the bruised horizon.

It had been drizzling all morning, which was no surprise because actually it had been drizzling for weeks. But off to the east the real deal was rolling in from the South China Sea, having just wreaked havoc in the northern islands of the Philippines. Condley zipped his rain jacket all the way up underneath his throat as if to emphasize the coming storm, then pulled his worn baseball cap lower over his eyes. And finally, just to make the point that he did not really care, he laughed.

"Hey, Professor, Buddha's pissed. Welcome to the real Viet Nam!"

Hanson Muir stood like a dreamer ten feet in front of him, near the prow of the narrow wooden boat. The boat was struggling against the angry current of the chalky, swollen Thu Bon River, its two-cylinder motor putting like a loud lawn mower. Its bow yawed this way and that, smacking against odd flotsam and swirling eddies. The monsoon had come to central Viet Nam five weeks before. It had dropped a hundred inches of rain in two weeks and then settled into an intermittent drizzle that would last for months. The fog-shrouded, unending mountains to the west were still weeping tons of water every hour from it. The rivers and streams had outgrown their banks. The endless terraces of rice paddies that filled the valleys leading eastward to the sea were now hidden under vast lakes of rainwater, often indistinguishable from the rivers or even the sea itself. And along the tree-choked knolls and ridges in the middle of the paddies, hundreds of villages sat serenely above the water, isolated like ancient little islands.

"How much further, Brandon?"

Muir's posed stance made Condley laugh yet again. The brilliant scientist seemed to be imagining himself as a Viking marauder with his puffed chest and raised chin, one hand stroking his beard as the other held on to a railing. Hearing Condley laugh, he turned and caught the smaller man's amused expression.

"Having your fun, are you?"

"You look ridiculous, Professor."

"And it'll be even funnier if we drown, I suppose?"

"You won't drown. You're too fat to sink."

"I'm surveying the riverbanks," said Hanson defensively. "In the event I am required to swim ashore."

Condley laughed again. He knew this river. "I wouldn't give a nickel for you making it to shore if this boat splits in two."

"I thought you said I wouldn't drown."

"That doesn't mean I think you can swim."

"Your sense of humor leaves me weak."

"Then don't lose your grip, there."

Condley walked carefully toward the stern and caught the attention of the boat's owner. The tight-muscled little man, whose name was Tuan, was intently working the till of his creaky wooden craft while standing barefoot in a gathering pool of water. Three hours before, Tuan had seemed incurably happy when these two Americans had offered him forty dollars to take them upriver to the village of Ninh Phuoc and back. Now he had lost his smile. His narrow eyes squinted as he watched the clogged current. He was drenched and shivering, his rain jacket and shorts soaked all the way through.

"Bao," said Condley, using the Vietnamese word for typhoon and pointing again toward the distant sea. "Sap den! Phai khong?"

Tuan glanced quickly up into the sky, then focused back on the dangers of the river. He tilted the rudder away from a swiftly moving log and then narrowly dodged the bloated carcass of a dead pig. "Khong co sao," he answered. Condley could tell that a typhoon would never deter Tuan. Forty dollars was the equivalent of a month's wages, and the little boatmaster had already planned on how he was going to spend it. "Di Ninh Phuoc di ve Danang, bon muoi do-lah, duoc, duoc."

Excerpted from Lost Soldiers by James Webb Copyright 2001 by James Webb. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Mothers
    The Mothers
    by Brit Bennett
    Every now and then the publishing industry gushes about a young author destined to become the next ...
  • Book Jacket
    by Tom Jackson
    Growing up in Mumbai in the '70s, I still remember herbs kept fresh in small glasses of water, ...
  • Book Jacket: Mercury
    by Margot Livesey
    Margot Livesey explores the moneyed suburbs of Boston and creates a modern morality tale chronicling...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    North of Crazy
    by Neltje

    The remarkable life of a woman who carves her own singular path.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    News of the World
    by Paulette Jiles

    Exquisitely rendered and morally complex--a brilliant work of historical fiction.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Les Parisiennes
    by Anne Sebba

    How the women of Paris lived, loved, and died under Nazi occupation.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.