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The Saigon Zoo: Vietnam's Other War: Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n Roll

by:
Pete Whalon (Author)

ISBN: 0-7414-2045-7 ©2004
Price: $17.95
Book Size: 5.5'' x 8.5'' , 339 pages
Category/Subject: BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Military

Abstract:
This comic true adventure follows the outrageous experiences of one Redondo Beach loafer who is tricked into enlisting in the U.S. Army during the height of the Vietnam War. Suddenly Pete Whalon is thrown into a bizarre, harsh and alien world where “the rulers devour their young.” Yet keeping his wits about him, Private Whalon carves out a very different sort of military career. Using youthful cunning, he transports his laidback So-Cal mentality to the Army structure with hilarious results! From Hawaii, to Saigon, to Long Binh (the largest U.S. military base in Vietnam in 1970), this reluctant soldier tests the patience and nerves of the lifers in command. Joining him in the rebellion is a motley crew of malcontented GIs, the core of which become his closest friends and the primary characters of this memoir.

Customer Reviews

  "Zoo's" A Keeper , 06/07/2004
Reviewer: Dave Siemienski
I read this book with the same trepidation that I had when I was "dodging" the Vietnam War. Namely, I didn't think I was going to like it. However, I couldn't avoid this work like I did that insidious war. Afterall, Pete was my friend, and he wanted me to read one of his first drafts. With great reluctance (knowing like he did, that I would have to tell him the truth), I began the journey through the distasteful memories of my struggle to stay away any kind of military service. I soon realized that maybe I was wrong. That war wasn't so bad, and neither was Pete's writing. In fact, from the moment I picked up the manuscript, I couldn't stop laughing. OUT LOUD! Hysterically. I couldn't put it down. The only other time I remember feeling that way about a book was my first youthful experience with "A Catcher In The Rye." This work provided the same empathetic, vicarious feelings of being inside someone else's thoughts, and thinking the whole scenario was a living comedy. This all seemed so real, yet still was a foreign lifestyle being described. The book follows Pete's "career" in the military, something I did everything within my power to avoid. Finding out how Pete was duped into joining, and what he was thinking all the way, make this all the more enjoyable when you view it from the voyeuristic perspective of not having to relive unpleasant experiences. But contrary to my preconceived notions of "Nam," Pete made it sound like Disneyland in uniform. I began regretting I ever missed this wonderful opportunity for camaradarie with fellow soldiers, while sympathizing with his early terror in boot camp. Pete unfolds this real-life saga in stages of assignments, and you continually become amazed as he gets deeper into a bizarre world that you never imagined existed quite this way. The book reveals aspects of the overall negative view Vietnam that never occur to the casual historian. I was only into one of the "sex, drugs, rock'n roll" elements of his subtitle, but through Pete I can indulge and experiment with a culture only previously known to his friends and other "enlisted" young men. I highly recommend you explore this strange underworld and all its fun-loving, naive denizens. You can't help but laugh at their antics, shudder through their training, and smile at the ingenuity they found in turning a disasterous war into their own vacation from the usual rigors of "growing up" in the 1960s. I resent the fact that Pete ended up having more fun in Southeast Asia than I did in Southern California during those crazy years at the end of that decade. Some guys have all the fun.

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  SAIGON ZOO , 07/16/2004
Reviewer: DAN KREYCHE
STEINBECK, HEMMINGWAY, AND NOW WHALON. MR WHALON CAPTURES THE SPIRIT OF VIETNAM'S HALCYON DAYS. HE PAINTS A VIVID PICTURE WITH HIS FORCEFUL AND SOMETIMES GUILT-RIDDEN RECOLLECTION OF BEING A GYPSY, PREOCCUPIED WITH WANDERLUST, WHILE STILL MANAGING TO KEEP HIS SANITY. WHEN IT COMES TO THE SAIGON ZOO, PETE REALLY KNOWS HOW TO "CLEAN THE CAGES" DAN KREYCHE JULY 2004

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  Praise for the Saigon Zoo , 07/22/2004
Reviewer: Eric Lazear
Whalon's 1st book delivered way more than I expected. It is a fast paced read; and always makes you feel like you are in the room with Pete and his malcontent pals in Georgia, Hawaii and even Viet Nam; playing card, goofing on the "lifers' or getting loaded. Great job Pete Whalon and I await the Vegas Zoo.

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  A Cult Classic -- A Twisted, Hysterical Saga , 09/16/2004
Reviewer: Nicholas Green
Whalon's Saigon Zoo is a cult classic in the making belonging in the ranks of Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Bukowski's Ham on Rye. Every red blooded American will want to crony up with Pete Whalon as he takes you on a wild ride of Sex, Drugs, and Rock-n-Roll through the "the heart of darkness." The book has timeless implications that are just as relative today than ever before. Get ready to laugh out loud and make friends with characters that will feel close to home as you embrace this hysterical, twisted saga in The Zoo! I don't recommend books lightly...this is a must have/read!

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