Reviews for Sole Survivors
inhonoredglory chapter 1 . 4/30/2011
Oh, what a story!

First of all, the writing was superb. The implicitness, the dialogue, the narration are perfectly done. Monker below sort of mentioned a lot of what I was going to praise – the time jumps, the “aha” moments, the slow revelation of what was happening. There is no author-nudging of backstory; it’s all done in the moment, in the context and knowledge of the characters. It’s written so passively, so deftly. I can sense that as your style, and in sad stories like these, it gives a kind of separateness that makes us readers mere observers to the tragedy. And as observers, we feel that we cannot control the events, making them even more fateful and sad.

I also love the fact that the past story was cut off at critical moments to jump to the present story, with no suspense lost by the fact that we know what happened anyway. Brilliant storytelling. Our knowing the ultimate end creates a deep and sorrowful sense of tragedy.

Lastly, I want to mention that you made a great thematic parallelism between the Germans’ following orders and Hogan’s men “following orders.” A deep and wonderful message that orders notwithstanding, it is the men's own moral decision to go through with whatever the high command dictates. In a way, Hogan could not have saved his men through this reasoning, for then he would undermine the justice of sentencing those German subordinates who carried out Hitler’s horrors. Of course, it breaks my heart to see Hogan so desperate, yet so self-sacrificing.

Your story makes one think, really, about the more important things in life, and that’s what the great stories are suppose to do. I read it on my laptop on a road trip last night. Mainly, I was just shocked and sad. Amazing how moving a tragedy could be even when you know it’s going to end tragically. But it was only after reading it that the tears came. Staring up at the stars, all alone with my thoughts, I felt the realness of that scary time in history, the pain and gritty reality that real people then experienced. I have a greater appreciation for history now, reading stories like these. Your stories are deeply moving, and to me, they are truly an inspiration.
Sgt. Hakeswill chapter 1 . 3/10/2010
Oh, this one was chillingly realistic. I was reminded a bit of the Malmedy massacre when reading.
ML Miller Breedlove chapter 1 . 3/7/2009
A sobering and a likely ending. Though I sometimes would like to imagine a happier outcome, this ending is probably more realistic. You presented this very well.
Monker chapter 1 . 3/5/2009
Alright, as per your suggesting, I’ve read this story and must say that I hold it in a very high regard. (And I’ll forewarn you now, this is going to be a lengthily review…so get comfortable.) I usually don’t like reading stories like this for a very selfish reason. And that reason simply being that I know many writers are just good at what they do and can really make these things sad. This story is no exception. You did a fine job pulling the deepest, rawest emotions from your readers with this work. I spent a good deal of time after concluding my reading of this story trying to define the feeling with which you left me. I thought of words like “depressed” and “sad”, but decided that they didn’t really fit for a number of reasons. The truth is, after reading this story, you just left me solemn, and I think that’s a good mark to hit with a story like this.

After finishing it, I went back to the opening of this story and read it again. The first time I read it, I was very confused. You started off the story without a very clear exposition. So the readers would just truck along with you, coming to realization after realization until they understood the background of the story. This was brilliantly done. You kept us wondering what was going on until a very subtle Ahha! moment came along and we were forced to admire your earlier ambiguity. So, the opening, I loved!

Alright, time for a quote…

“I was outside that day.” His voice took on the dispassionate quality of someone narrating an event that had happened to someone else.

Okay, first of all, poor guy. I don’t even like to think about the tremendous amount of guilt with which that man must be burdened. That’s such a rough place to be in. Second of all (is that a real term? Or did I just have a stupid moment?) I love that description. That dispassionate quality…someone else…lovely! I know the tone you were describing so it helped me gain (what I think would be) a very accurate delivery of that line in my own imagination. Well done with that.

I like how you did the time jumps. Now, you have to be careful with them though because when they’re done carelessly they can just serve to complicate the story and confuse the reader. So I’d advise you (and all authors, really) to use discretion when working with time jumps. However, I didn’t think that you had a problem with it in this story. The first one was a bit trippy because I still hadn’t had that complete Ahha! moment yet. But I soon caught on and then loved your jumps. I think you did them very tastefully and they added nothing but the finest qualities to your story.

“Oh, General, what happened to Klink?”

Burkhalter coldly said, “He’s been disposed of.”

This line caused a lump to form in my throat. And I liked Hogan’s response to this news later on in the story. After all, Klink wasn’t as cruel as Hogan often gave him credit for being. He had a certain human decency in his heart and though you probably wouldn’t call his personality “amiable”, he certainly had his likeable qualities about him. And what makes this news even more tragic is that Klink really was naive to the goings on at Stalag 13 and therefore, innocent (well, as far as Nazi Colonels go anyway).

Okay, the courtroom scenes really intrigued me as a critical reader. I kept saying to myself, “Why aren’t there more descriptions?” The scene just seemed to coast through with line after line, boom boom boom boom. And I couldn’t determine why you wrote it that way. I’ve heard of writers, when writing a rough draft, writing exclusively the dialogue as a start, sort of like an outline. But the thing is, they always come in later to fill in all the blanks and include description. But you didn’t seem to do that. With the exception of the drinking of water, the pointing to a map, and a few brief pauses in speech, there were no breaks in dialogue through the whole first courtroom scene (second, I guess, if you want to be technical). But I’ve recently decided that I liked it that way. For one thing, it was different. For another, it gave a sort of rhythm to the whole scene. And it set a good tone for what was probably going on in the room at the time. I can’t imagine many people were very observant to the decorations of the room, or the facial expressions of the attorneys during those interrogations. No, people were listening to the words. They were thinking about the testimonies being given and the questions being asked. So I don’t know if you were conscious of what I’ve just observed, or if it was done unintentionally; either way, it was grand!

Alright, the listing of the men found in that ditch made my chest tighten. I knew what was coming (especially after having read “Last Night on Earth”) but reading it was still hard. When I read this line… “Bodies. Fifteen.” I could practically hear the music accompaniment hit an F#m on the lowest keys of a piano. Lol. All the dots connected and I started to grieve.

“We only managed to guess at names and numbers by cross-checking records with the Red Cross, the families, and the army.”

This line didn’t seem to make much sense to me. I can’t figure why they would find many records on these men in the army. After all, it was established several times on the show (and I think once or twice in the story itself) that most, if not all of the prisoners there were Air Force men, right? Weren’t they all flyers who had been downed at one point or another and therefore captured in enemy territory? It seems to me that this line would have worked better to have read “…records with the Red Cross, the families, and the military.” However, it’s just an opinion and you can keep it or change it as you see fit.

Here’s another line I’d like to address…

“Several civilians - family members, Olsen supposed - wept openly.”

I think it is okay to interrupt a sentence with character observation like this, but only when it’s done properly. I think you could have written this differently to make it better. The way it is now, it trips my mind up a bit. I think it’s because you interrupted the sentence before we knew what the civilians did. It seemed awkward to separate the subject from the verb like that. It may have been less trippy if you had left Olsen’s observation till after telling what the civilians did. As in, “Several civilians wept openly; Olsen supposed they were family members.” Once again, however, this is personal opinion and the need for an adjustment isn’t a dire one. The line is still understandable the way it is, but I thought I’d let you know anyway.

Alright, another one…

It took two guards to hold Hogan back. “You can’t do that. I told you I was the one responsible.”

This one’s really simple to point out. You say that Hogan had to be physically restrained in his rage, but then his spoken words seem to be punctuated as though he were very calm. Throw in some exclamation points to Hogan’s lines there then his emotion is more believable and you’re set to go.

Okay, Burkhalter’s testimony, I don’t understand it. He made so much fuss over making sure that Papa Bear’s operation remained under wraps. He said that it could never be discovered what went on at Stalag 13. He worked super hard to cover his tracks. And even the prisoners lied to tell Burkhalter’s story, but then when HE takes the stand, he comes out and tells the TRUTH? Why? Maybe you explained it somewhere in the story, but I totally missed it. And I can’t understand why he would give that testimony. If he were planning on just telling the truth anyway, then why would he have “disposed” of all those people and those records?

Okay this one’s long, but necessary so I’ll try to shorten it…

“Let’s return to the day you executed the fifteen prisoners and evacuated the remaining prison population. … Yet, now you are telling us that is false; that the prisoners were spies.”

“General, if there was an epidemic and the prison had to be closed, why wouldn’t there be records showing this information? ….”

I’m assuming that both of these paragraphs are spoken by the attorney, correct? If that’s the case then you have a slight error in punctuation. You should have dropped off the quotation mark at the end of the first paragraph, so right after “spies”. The quotation mark at the beginning of the second paragraph tells us that that paragraph is simply a continuation of what the character had already said in the first paragraph. Does that make sense? Closing off the first paragraph with a quotation mark leaves the reader to assume that the attorney as stopped speaking, and that the line starting with, “General, if there was…” was delivered by a different character. Especially since you are not including description with much of the courtroom scenes, you are not labeling a quote with the usual “he said” or “so-and-so said”. So we as readers are forced to deduce which line belongs to which character based solely on the known back and forth pattern. It’s very important, because of this, that you don’t leave any room for confusion or else you risk disrupting the flow of the story by making the reader have to think and reread things. I realize, looking at what I just wrote, that this could be very confusing to understand if you’re not familiar with what I’m trying to describe. If I really am being confusing and you don’t get what I’m trying to say, shoot a PM my way and let me know and I’ll try to explain it better.

All in all, I thought it was a very well written story and it’s clear that you did your homework. I like stories when they are believable and you certainly made this one just that. I always commend authors for researching the facts of the story to make it as authentic as possible, especially when it comes to situations like this that actually happened once upon a time. Well done, and thank you first for writing this work and then for suggesting it. I’ve enjoyed reading and reviewing this very much.

-Monker
konarciq chapter 1 . 2/28/2009
So you did dare to post it after your own trial...
L J Groundwater chapter 1 . 2/26/2009
A very possible way for them to react to discovering the operation being at Stalag 13. I could see what was coming but I had goosebumps and a bad feeling about it all the way through. Hogan's fear for his men, his desperation to save them even at the last minute, was so real. Burkhalter's decision to do the "humane" thing for the other prisoners, and to take the stand, was also so very realistic.

This was fantastic. Thanks for sharing.
El Gringo Loco chapter 1 . 2/25/2009
Gripping and realistic, this would likely have been the outcome had Hogan and his men's actions been discovered during the war. From Nuremburg, Belsen and beyond, the war crimes trials were a grim chapter in post war history. (I have my own opinions of their conduct and the authority under which they were convened.) The author has clearly done their homework in this area, and to my mind has portrayed their flavor rather well.
Atarah Derek chapter 1 . 2/25/2009
It's good to see that "Theboysfrombarrackstwo" didn't get to this before you posted it. :D

So did allied POWs really become part of the labor camps? Or was that just historical license? 'Cause that's a scary thought.
Bits And Pieces chapter 1 . 2/25/2009
I found this to be very well-written and thought-provoking; but also very heartwrenching. I tend to prefer the happier endings, myself, but this is certainly a scenario that could have happened. Very sad, indeed.
Toussaint chapter 1 . 2/25/2009
Very nice job. I like that you picked two "outside" characters as the survivors. And you handled the details of the trial/testimony very well.

I am rather curious, though-what did happen to Klink? And Schultz, too?
ColHogan chapter 1 . 2/25/2009
This story broke my heart to read. Hogan, Kinch, Carter, LeBeau, Newkirk, Baker and a few others all executed by firing squad. Also, I suspect Klink was probably executed as well from what was indicated. I could feel Hogan's desperation and pain as he tried one last ditch attempt to save his men and the other prisoners. But to have Hogan and his men tossed into a mass grave really upset me. It was well written although very sad.