First Blood – David Morrell

Tfirstblooditle: First Blood
Author: David Morrell
Published by: Headline (2008)
Publication date: 1972
Genre:Action and Adventure
Pages: 308
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal collection

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I rank this book as one of my personal favourites, so this ‘review’ might be a little on the biased side – but all they really are is personal opinions so take or leave as you so desire.

First Blood is the classic action thriller that introduced the world to Rambo; a character that has become so iconic in American Cinema that there he is still being included in spoofs, rip-offs and adapted for world cinema today! So it’s humbling at times to return to him roots and read First Blood.

For those that don’t know the tale of Rambo; he’s a young Vietnam war veteran and a vagabond, drifting from place to place until he comes across a town under the watchful eye of Teasle – a policeman who has been the top-dog of his own little world for so long that things don’t quite go to plan when Rambo comes to town.

The book is presented in an alternative points of view, switching between Rambo and Teasle every chapter; this is an interesting aspect to the novel because it doesn’t give you a chance to attach your sentiment to either of the main characters – and as soon as you find your views leaning one way the point of view switches and you start to lean the other; this is a really powerful play that keeps the reader gripped to the novel and wondering what the other character is going to get up too or react to the unfolding events; regardless of which one you are currently reading about.

It goes without saying that the novel is rather different to the film; the character Rambo himself is harder to sympathise with in the novel; mostly because he is such an undeserving jerk! Sure, he’s gone through hell during the Vietnam War but he just takes his anger out on whoever he comes across – in this case Teasle, a veteran in his own right – it make it difficult to process the power struggle and where the ‘right and wrong’ lies. This also makes the book such a fascinating read; just don’t expect a happy ending. And, if you’ve seen the film, don’t expect them to end in the same way either – the novel is very different in this area.

The start of the book is particularly strong and gripping, with a lot of diversity of emotions and situations and the growing tension between Rambo and Teasle is particularly well written; as is how the personal lives of each character affects their actions. Would Teasle have gone as far as he does with Rambo had his home life not been so fraught? Possibly not. Now he is in a situation he can’t back-pedal from, with Rambo tugging at the other end like a dog with a chew-toy just as unwilling to let go and back down.

Another saving grace for the novel is how easy it is to read. I go on about this a lot, but the language is surprisingly easy to digest and leaves a wonderful picture in the readers mind and this is just as true for the scenes that aren’t in the movie – which as a reader I forgot there was any relation at all, aside from the names.

Die-hard Rambo fan or not, I highly recommend giving this book a try. It’s a ground-breaking piece of with that may (or may not) have founded an entire genre; that of the action-hero. Moreso than that, First Blood is a powerful character study; delving deep into both Rambo and Teasle and what drives them to act as they do. It’s a read I highly commend if interested in getting deep into rich characters.


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