Tim O'Brien is a veteran of the war in Vietnam. He saw combat. He saw friends killed and mutilated, he experienced the camaraderie that exists only among people in the particular environment of battle, and he survived to write it about. As with other military veterans who survived and wrote about war, their stories have an authenticity that can only be conveyed by those who were there.
Story tellers throughout history have written beautifully and convincingly about lives and situations they never personally experienced. That is the gift of the novelist, to be able to tell a story convincingly and well. Among those who fought in battle, however, there is a sacred bond to which nonveterans attempt to connect at their own literary peril. Tim O'Brien's book, "The Things They Carried," is considered one of the finest works of fiction to come out of this country's most controversial and divisive conflict. Along with Jim Webb's "Fields of Fire," and Karl Marlantes, "Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War," O'Brien's novel is considered one of the finest to come out of the Vietnam War experience. These authors' ability to convey the sense of men in combat is considered particularly realistic, as each is a veteran of that particular war.