Monday, January 14, 2013

1. Casca: The Legionnaire #11 by Barry Sadler

I literally found this book in an alley, along with several other minor little treasures.  The contents of what appeared to be someone's apartment  were strewn about an alley and my eye flashed on a beat-up paperback sticking out of a plastic bag.  I couldn't resist and ended up finding a nice little stash of books from the 60s through the early 80s.  Don't know if somebody had moved out or passed away, but I couldn't let these books go to the dump.

Casca is a fairly well-known and appreciated series among fans of the manly military series books.  It's the story of a legionnaire responsible for putting Jesus on the cross who is then cursed to spend the rest of time until the Rapture being a soldier.  He is effectively immortal and follows history going from war to war.  #11 starts out with him as a Nazi soldier, fleeing the Russian advance at the end of WWII.  He makes his way to the French Foreign Legion and is sent over to Indochina to help stave off the Viet Cong resistance to French colonial rule.

I'm not a big fan of war fiction.  There is often a slightly disturbing pornographic element in it that makes me think of certain kids in high school that I didn't really want to hang around with.  I also find it kind of boring.  Of all the wars, I'd say it is Vietnam that I find the most boring and disturbing when portrayed fictionally.  So I had a bit of a slog at certain points getting through this book.  It wasn't extremely pornie when it came to the guns and violence (less so than the Bruno Rossi books for instance), but at the same time there isn't really a whole lot to care about character-wise.  The coolest part for me was when Casca does actually get killed.  It is about halfway through the book and up until that point there was no explanation of his supernatural status, just a few oblique references to his scarred body and intense, deathly stare.  The description of his resurrection after being shot down in a swamp in Vietnam was compelling and intense.  I got into that part. 

I think if you like this sort of thing, the Casca books deserve their reputation and you should check them out.  It's not my cup of tea, so I am glad I read this one and know how the series works, but that will be it for me.

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