Horne has a flair for wrenching detail. We see rats gnawing on soldiers’ open wounds, desperately dehydrated men in Manchuria sipping the blood from their own bodies, and sundry other horrors. But his moral purpose is never far from the surface. Rather than simply listing statistics, he makes the toll of arrogance and historical amnesia vivid through specific, harrowing stories.
It is an eminently provocative and readable volume in no small part because Mr. Horne, who has written more than two dozen books on modern European history, here ventures into what for him is the new territory of East Asia. Readers are the beneficiaries of this voyage of discovery.
There is nothing wrong with building a book around accounts of multiple, unrelated battles...The trick is to provide some kind of organizing principle to justify the choice of topics and to spin out an interesting thesis from the historical raw materials. Horne fails on both counts.