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The Last Full Measure
by Jeff Shaara
ISBN 0345434811 / 9780345434814 / 0-345-43481-1
Publisher Ballantine Books
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As Stephen Lang reads the final installment of Michael and Jeff Shaara's American Civil War trilogy, he conveys the horror and exhaustion that overwhelmed the battered soldiers by allowing a hauntingly weary quality to color his voice. The Last Full Measure picks up where the previous novels (The Killer Angels and Gods and Generals) left off, after the devastating Battle of Gettysburg, as the Confederate Army begins a long and fiercely contested retreat. The author writes, "As the war enters its third year the bloody reports continue to fill the newspapers and the bodies of young men continue to fill the cemeteries. To the eager patriots, the idealists and adventurers who had joined the fight in the beginning, there is a new reality, where honor and glory are becoming hollow words. The great causes are slowly pushed aside and men now fight with the grim determination to take this fight to its end." Lang puts his theatrical experience (Hamlet, Death of a Salesman, A Few Good Men) to good use here, delivering the narrative with sincerity. Although his effort is occasionally distracting, he creates a multitude of voices for the many historical characters, adding an element of emotional authenticity to this exceedingly powerful story. Once again Shaara uses an evocative blend of historical fact and well-researched fiction to create a powerful portrait of the men, great and small, whose actions determined the outcome of the war. (Running time: six hours, four cassettes) --George Laney [via]