Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead is less about strategy or tactics than it is about soldiers. It’s about the dynamics between commanders and their subordinates. The way men of different backgrounds deal with being placed together and forced to cooperate. The constant affronts to personal morality that war brings, and the way war pushes endurance and courage to their absolute limits. It’s also about power dynamics, love and lust, and of course death.
It takes a Tolstoyian effort to sandwich that many themes between the covers of one, huge albeit, book and Mailer manages to… well, not really approach Tolstoy but he manages to weigh in as a Tolstoy-light. In the best possible way. The Naked and the Dead is easier reading than War and Peace . It has far fewer characters, settings, and scope, but it still manages to explore a lot of the same ground in a meaningful and compelling way. It’s impressive, especially for a work written when Mailer was essentially just a kid.