To The Last Man is the pinnacle of historic fiction. It is written with great detail and respect to the facts. This book taught me much about the "War to End All Wars". This book actually taught me more about how people felt than any textbook might.
The book actually has many main characters, my two favorite being Manfred Von Richthoven and Roscoe Temple, both of whom were real people. Temple was several marines (he is a composite character forged from diaries of marines) who served in almost every one of the battles of World War One, including Belleau Woods. Rest assured that even though he is a mixture of characters every one of his stories was actually experienced by one marine or another. Richthoven, or the "Red Baron", is the main German voice of the novel. He is a German hero from WWI who is credited with 81 confirmed kills. Richthoven is also the paradigm of the German Air Force, his view on combat is an antiquated one, seeing himself as a knight of the air, practicing chivalry. This is in direct contrast with the main American pilot, Raoul Lufbery, who saw his role as being an instrument of death meant to kill the enemy and nothing more.
The entire point of this novel is to give a brand new perspective on the war, through the eyes of the soldier. Shaara does include passages seen from Pershing's perspective, but most of the action is seen through the eyes of the fighting man. It is impossible to read this novel without feeling what they felt, feeling their pain, their suffering, their elation, their sorrow.
One passage really hits hard, right at the heart:
" The paper read: ' Minor activity along the Ypres front. Engagements of no importance.' "
This quotation comes after spending twenty pages learning about a greenie. You are going to have to read the novel in order to figure out why that statement hurts me so.
This novel is a must read for any history buff, or anyone who has any interest in war. This novel in my opinion compares to the depth of Saving Private Ryan. These words and feelings expressed are simply amazing, something I thought beyond the ability of a human writer to convey.