Though it covers only a few hours, the book is a gripping, eloquent provocation. Class, privilege, power, politics, sex, commerce and the life-or-death dynamics of battle all figure in Billy Lynn’s surreal game day experience … There are such bravura scenes in Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk that this book never seems narrow or small … Mr. Fountain describes the erotic fireworks of a Destiny’s Child performance mixed with the military fervor of an accompanying marching band...The stimulation of these extremely mixed signals simply explodes in Billy Lynn’s brain; the effect of this ‘porn-lite out of its mind on martial dope’ on readers will be just as devastating … The halftime of the title isn’t about the pause in the football game. It’s about this brief, stunning, life-changing pause in the way Billy Lynn, two-week American hero, goes to war.
Like the flag raisers of Iwo Jima, the men of Bravo have been whisked back to the United States for a two-week victory tour, climaxing, on the day of the novel, with an appearance at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium … Within 50 pages things are coming nicely into focus, from ‘the woody grain of the turkey’ served up as part of a gigantic buffet, to the shifting choreography of the squad’s dealings with their adoring public … Fountain keeps the reader’s plate piled high. It all happens in tandem; by the time Billy falls for his cheerleader we are in love with the book, and that love finds expression in more and wilder laughter … The book seems like nothing else so much as a single wonderful scene — with a brief intermission at Billy’s home — from which all traces of initial uncertainty have been removed.
The brief exchange between naive grunts and a grizzled veteran of Tinseltown is an obvious homage to Joseph Heller. But it’s also a bold announcement that Catch-22 is about to be updated for a new era … In Fountain’s razor-sharp, darkly comic novel the focus has shifted from bureaucracy to publicity, reflecting corresponding shifts in our culture … As they’re being shuttled from one staged event to another, Billy is subjected to the gauche iconography of the country he’s been fighting for: draft-dodging, platitude-mouthing millionaires and their trophy wives, holding court in owners’ skyboxes; a scantily clad Beyonce entertaining football fans with a ridiculous military-themed halftime show; the surreal presence of pom-pom-shaking Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders at a news conference in which Billy and the other Bravos are asked to describe the hell of war … There’s hardly a false note, or even a slightly off-pitch one, in Fountain’s sympathetic, damning and structurally ambitious novel.