Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Guns of NavaroneThe Guns of Navarone by Alistair MacLean

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A team of world class rock climbers must destroy the lethal guns commanding a strait that is the only access to a thousand British troops trapped on the doomed island of Kheros. New Zealander, Captain Keith Mallory, leads a team that includes a giant Greek and an aging American explosives genius to the German occupied, and seemingly impenetrable, island of Navarone. The danger starts before they approach the island, sailing in an ancient, leaking skiff, they are halted and boarded by a German patrol in a similar vessel, which they sink handily. Next, they shelter from a storm beneath a German watch tower, whose defenders are dispatched by the oversized Greek. When they approach the vertical cliffs of Navarone, they are still in the grip of the storm and are dashed against the rocks. The wall is considered an impossible climb, but it presents no obstacle to Mallory. Unfortunately, there is a German sentry at the top. From this point forward, things really get difficult.

The Guns of Navarone is an iconic war story made famous by a movie of the same name. It is at once a page-turner and an introspective tale. It is unconventional in its nearly complete disregard for viewpoint, with the narration moving freely among the characters. There is, perhaps, a minor weakness in that the characters tend to give speeches and are prone to do so as the Germans are breaking down the door. It is a white-knuckle trip with more close calls and narrow escapes than some readers will easily stomach. Mr. Maclean tells us in the forward that he invented Navarone based on his own military experience in the Mediterranean. He did a fine job.

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