© 2011 Jeff Shaara
The Final Storm is an appetizer served in lieu of a main course: tasty, but unsatisfying. As fine a story as it is, it's a frustratingly disappointing treatment of the Pacific War.
Jeff Shaara has penned three prior novels set during the Second World War, all set in the European theatre. Shaara borrows his father's intimate writing style, which combines traditional narration with a stream-of-consciousness approach that conveys the thoughts and emotions of his lead characters. In the case of the Final Front, "lead character" is a more accurate expression, for this novel distinguishes itself among Shaara's work by focusing heavily on one character: Clay Adams, Marine. Adams is among the ranks of the men who are expected to pray the Japanese army from Okinawa and set the stage for the greatest, bloodiest battle ever imagined: the Invasion of Japan.
The Final Front picks up in spring 1945, when Japan is defeated, but defiant: despite the lack of naval and aerial support, the Japanese soldiers on Okinawa fight ferociously and cost the American marines and infantry dearly. Battle is inevitably gruesome, but the island battles of the Pacific War are exemplars of the horrors of combat: Eugene Sledge's stomach-churning details of Okinawa ("hell's own cesspool") still linger with me over a year after reading his memoirs, and Shaara's account brought those memories into sharper focus. While the Battle of Okinawa is meant to depict the difficulties, cost, and savagery of the Pacific War as whole, the fourth act -- relatively minor -- offers Adams and the reader some relief by promising to bring the war to a swift conclusion through the use of the atomic bomb.