Fatal Light

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Fatal Light is widely regarded as an enduring classic, with author Tim O’Brien calling the book “one of the very best works of fiction to emerge from the Vietnam War.” A devastating portrait of war in all its horror, brutality, and mindlessness, this extraordinary novel is written in beautifully cadenced prose. A combat medic in Vietnam faces the chaos of war, set against the tranquil scenes of family life back home in small-town America. This young man’s rite of passage is traced through jungle combat to malaria-induced fever visions to the purgatory of life in military-occupied Saigon. After returning home from war to stay with his grandfather, he confronts his own shattered personal history and the mysterious human capacity for renewal.

The phenomenal bestseller was first published in 1988, subsequently appearing in more than 20 different editions and 11 languages. It was short—listed for the PEN/Hemingway Award and received, among a number of honors, the Vietnam Veterans of America’s Excellence in the Arts Award, an Enoch Pratt Library of Baltimore Book Award, and the Special Citation of the Hemingway Foundation.


Praise for Fatal Light:

“Few books born of the Vietnam War are likely to last as works of art, but Fatal Light joins that select group. Written with an impressionistic verve that burns into memory, Currey’s fresh look at the war–and his ability to illustrate how easy it is to become unfeeling when faced with situations that deny one’s humanity–make for a haunting work.”

Dallas Morning News

“Of all the many books written about the war, this one will be among the handful to endure.”

—Philip Caputo, author of A Rumor of War

“No one who reads this brilliant book will ever forget it. With this remarkable novel Richard Currey joins Tim O’Brien, Michael Herr, Philip Caputo, and Robert Olen Butler as an artist who not only lived history but records it with Homeric resonance. I cannot remember when I have read a more powerful work.”

James Lee Burke

Fatal Light is a spare, elegant novel that manages to summon several layers of images, some quite beautiful, others truly horrifying. The narrator says of Vietnam: ‘Such things live together here, poetry and shotguns. Alive and well in a single body.’ The same is true for this impressive novel.”

The New York Times Book Review

“By no means a typical Vietnam war novel, Fatal Light, like few others in its genre, surmounts the cliches. It is one of the best literary treatments we have had of the Vietnam war.”

USA Today

“One of the very best works of fiction to emerge from the Vietnam War.”

—Tim O’Brien

“Etched with precision and freshness and a lyrical sense of language that lingers … Currey makes you feel as if you are hearing more truth than a thousand pages of official history could achieve. There are sequences in Fatal Light that shook my heart.”

Alan Cheuse, National Public Radio

“Apart from its honed lyricism, what makes this Vietnam novel superior to most others is that it is unself-conscious, allowing us to share the combat experience through a brilliantly executed series of vignettes. Fiercely focused and crafted with great skill… a stunning narrative.”

Publisher’s Weekly, starred, boxed review

Each beautifully written scene is like a tile in a mosaic, contributing to an impressive artistic unity. Fatal Light is so satisfying, so masterful in its union of form and content, that the sorrow provoked by its painful subject is mitigated by the pleasure of discovering such an exciting writer.”

Cleveland Plain Dealer