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War Is Hell / Literature

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  • In "Bot Wars", only one character in the series is truly evil, and even they have a Freudian Excuse, yet a war still leaves half of the United States covered in Techno Wreckage and every surviving member of the protagonist's family maimed. The sequel is mostly focused around preventing a second war, and even then several more characters are killed or injured. War is Hell, indeed.
  • Goodbye To All That: Extraordinary wartime physical hardship. Constant exposure to danger and death. An unbridgeable gap between the experience of those on the front line and those on the home front
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  • Die Waffen nieder! (Lay Down Your Arms), which, until the publication of All Quiet on the Western Front, below, was the most important work of anti-war literature. Its author, Bertha von Suttner, went on to receive the Peace Nobel Prize in 1905, and is featured on the Austrian 2€ coin today.
  • The short story The Bowling Alley (Die Kegelbahn) by Wolfgang Borchert.
  • All Quiet on the Western Front: The enemy that a soldier kills and maims are not faceless targets but people very much like himself.
  • Wilfred Owen, a British soldier who was killed in action during World War I (tragically a week before the war ended), wrote many anti-war poems. The most famous example is probably Dulce et Decorum Est, which is about a man haunted in his nightmares by memories of one of his fellow soldiers dying in a gas attack.
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie:
    Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori.note 
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  • Similarly, the short poem The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner is no less horrifying than Dulce et Decorum Est for being only five lines long.
  • The Forever War: We're fighting them because they are fighting us because we are fighting them because ... a war without any sensible objective that no-one can stop. Soldiers that return home find it utterly alien: who are they fighting for?
    • Time dilation only exacerbates this problem- the people the soldiers left behind at home are long dead, and that was a certainty going into the war.
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut: the WWII firebombing of Dresden haunts the book. You could see all of Vonnegut's work as an extended Creator Breakdown in the face of his hellish wartime experiences.
  • Post WWI, Septimus in Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway suffers from shell shock-induced hallucinations and might have full-blown schizophrenia. He also has survivor guilt over the fact he saw his friend Evans get blown up and believes Evans's ghost haunts him.
  • Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden: Native Canadian snipers in World War I. A fairly innocent young man snaps completely under the impact of the war and commits war atrocities. Graphic and nihilistic.
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  • John Marsden's The Tomorrow Series features a group of teenagers who become guerrilla fighters when Australia is invaded by an unspecified foreign power.
  • Madeleine L'Engle's A Swiftly Tilting Planet features a shell shocked veteran of the Civil War, Union side. It takes him months to open up even to his twin brother, and he never gets over the experience fully. (Includes a more literal And I Must Scream than usual: "I saw a man with his face blown off and no mouth to scream with, and yet he screamed and screamed and could not die.") The entire book is spent averting a worldwide nuclear war, so this trope is kind of necessary.
  • The Flashman series tends to lean this way, which is unsurprising given the setting. Flashy lives through some of the most terrible campaigns of his era including the retreat from Kabul and the Sepoy Mutiny, and in most cases he only survives because he is a lucky, cowardly, lucky, conniving, lucky, bastard.
  • A brief, haunting moment in The Giver, is when Jonas is given the memory of a young man dying in combat in what is implied to be the American Civil War. And when we say young, we mean no older than thirteen. Utopia Justifies the Means, indeed...
  • K.J Parker's The Scavenger Trilogy and his work explores war exhaustively in a Low Fantasy setting. It grubs up the base motives for war, the inglorious mess that a full-blown war becomes, the wreckage it makes of humans and human life.
  • Gone with the Wind has quite a bit of this trope, and the book really focuses on how difficult life was in the South for the civilians during and towards the end of the war. This is foreshadowed even before the war starts at the Wilkes' barbecue, when an elderly man who has been through at least two wars warns them of the horrible experiences they're going to have.
  • Hemingway wrote often on this trope. A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls brutally depict the horrors of war, the former set in the muddy trenches of WWI, and the latter depicting the unique barbarism that is found only in civil wars, in this case the Spanish Civil War.
  • The Trope Codifier is The Red Badge of Courage note .
  • Harry Turtledove's book A World of Difference: after American and Soviet spacecraft land in opposite Minervan (Martian) nations and the Medieval Minervans later go to war. Each with a human adviser, the Soviet with an AK-74 and the American with a pistol. Then an American ultralight drops a jumbo-sized Molotov cocktail on the Soviet causing the American-friendly King to shudder in terror at the thought of what human battlefields must be like with noise weapons everywhere and fire falling from the sky.
  • The Unknown Soldier, and very much so.
  • The Lord of the Rings doesn't go on and on about descriptions of wartime brutality (the gore, dismemberment, etc.), but the resulting psychological trauma is often shown. Frodo ends up with what looks remarkably like shell-shock, and since There Are No Therapists, nobody can help him. Various characters (Denethor and Eowyn among them) are made suicidal by the constant stress of life in wartime. At the end of the battle of Pelennor Fields, a battle everyone knew was morally okay to fight, there is a running list of good people who were cut down with little fanfare, and several who did get fanfare but were still dead and mourned. Further, there is Helms Deep, where Hama's body was "hewn even as he lay dead before the gates," and the fear for the lives of friends and loved ones when a small contingent was hemmed into the caverns by the Uruk-Hai the vast desolation of the landscape to fuel the war machines of Isengard and Mordor, and Samwise musing on the fact that most of the people killed in war, even on "the wrong side," probably aren't themselves evil at heart. Then after that, there is the scouring of the Shire, where Saruman, so twisted by the loss of the war, tries to simply maim as much as he can. There have even been essays written about the orcs and the Ringwraiths and how they relate to this. Tolkien was a veteran of World War I, the war most likely to inspire a tragic view of war, as shown in many examples on this page.
    • Even when the Free People’s (elves, dwarves, hobbits, ents, and good men) have We ARE Struggling Together and the orcs, Nazgûl, trolls, and evil men have an Enemy Civil War, both sides knew that any of their other band enemies will destroy them ruthlessly, orc Gorbag tell this to Shagrat in the second book, and hobbit Frodo tells this to Sam in the third book (see Meaningful Echo).
    • In The Hobbit, seemingly the most light-hearted part of the Middle Earth Legendarium, this trope is still played at the end. Though the goblins are defeated Thorin is killed, along with his nephews Fili and Kili, as are many on both sides. Bilbo desperately tries to avert war before the battle and by the end is unhappy about the whole affair.
    • In The Silmarillion this trope is also played. Nírnaeth Arnoediad, (the Battle of Unnumbered Tears), has so many deaths the Orcs are able to make a hill out of the corpses. It is Morgoth's greatest victory.
  • The Reynard Cycle: Between a civil war that's thrown a third of the nation into a famine so bad that people are eating their own children, the general acceptance of rape and pillage as a byproduct of standing armies, and the realistic depiction of battle as being mentally scarring for pretty much all of the participants (much of Reynard's own character development in The Baron of Maleperduys revolves around this), it's safe to say that this trope is in effect.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire. Every side has thousands of soldiers being maimed or massacred, and the soldiers that do survive in one piece spend most of the time when they're not actively fighting rampaging through the villages, stealing, murdering, and raping as they go. The nobility try to hold onto a War Is Glorious mindset at first, but lose it rapidly as they start to suffer consequences too, and it's gone entirely by the time the Tully family takes Jaime Lannister as a hostage.
  • Catch-22. War is inescapable and insane. You can be promoted without doing anything and you can be arrested for breaking curfew while letting a rapist murderer go free because he is on furlough.
  • Monstrous Regiment is a surprisingly dark Discworld novel dealing with war. Topics include execution of prisoners of war, intentional friendly fire, rape and murder of civilians, corruption in the supply chains, starvation, field surgery, mental illness, etc.
    • "Night Watch Discworld" is another novel from the series which becomes a very dark condemnation of war, but where 'Monstrous Regiment' was a response to long-term meaningless border squabbles (along with sexism and religious extremism), 'Night Watch' dealt with meaningless revolutions. The main theme is the tragedy of good people giving up their lives, hoping for a better future, only for the terrible leaders manipulating them to lead to a Full-Circle Revolution.
    • "Jingo" comes down hard that War, any war, is a Crime, resulting in Vimes arresting both armies.
  • Dodger (also by Terry Pratchett) has Sweeney Todd, suffering from war-based PTSD in his backstory. He later becomes a barber, using straight-edge razors, but because he has some trouble separating reality from his experiences, Todd occasionally 'gives what help he could' to customers that he believes to be heavily injured squadmates.
  • Animorphs does this with teenagers fighting an Alien Invasion. You'd think something that was basically just Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World with animal powers would just be fun, but the series really rams this message in as the main characters lose their innocence, their sanity, their families, and in some cases, their lives. And that they might end up failing to get what they have fought for. When fans protested about the Downer Ending ( Rachel dies, Jake commits genocide, Visser Three is tried for war crimes, all the surviving Animorphs save Cassie are miserable, and the story ends with a new villain attempting an Assimilation Plot, already taking Ax, and Jake ordering the Blade Ship to be rammed), K.A. Applegate wrote an Author Tract reminding people that this trope exists, and she would never write a sanitized version of war, and their anger should be saved for the perpetrators of said wars for the destruction and lives lost that they caused.
    ""Wars don't end happily. Not ever."
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms while it had its epic war moments, was ultimately a tale of tragedy as three kingdoms vied for the control of China and ultimately none were victorious. In terms of the fates of the characters, Shu fell as Wide-Eyed Idealist Liu Bei soon became jaded, learning virtue is not enough to bring the people together. For Wu, the Sun dynasty's fall heralded a new tyrant who was so hated that the people did not resist and for Wei, Cao Pi realized that ambition worked both ways.
  • Johnny Got His Gun. About a soldier who is left deaf, blind, mute and without any limbs as a result of a war that he didn't even volunteer for. He learns to communicate by moving ever so slightly, and repeatedly asks to be killed.
  • Patrick Ness' Chaos Walking trilogy seems to be going this way, although the theme seems to be more 'war can be a necessary evil' than 'war is always bad'. Current themes explored in the series so far include slavery, and later genocide, a dictator and how he manipulates the population into not fighting against him (this includes full-out brainwashing), Grey-and-Grey Morality with the resistance overstepping the mark to achieve their end almost as much as the Dictator does, torture of prisoners, the nature of terrorism, religious fundamentalism, and discrimination resulting in dehumanization. There is also an Author Tract dropped against the idea that a real man is capable of murder. Yeah, it's a pretty heavy series. And all set within a small human colony in space, too.
  • Bolo - Plenty of examples, but the aptly-named Final War, culminating in a mutual campaign of total extermination between humans and Melconians that turned a whole spiral arm of the Milky Way into a lifeless waste of dead or hopelessly contaminated planets, takes the cake. It is notable, that plans of the Case/Operation Ragnarok, the human half of the equation of genocide, were based on a scenario initially created to illustrate utter madness of such campaign. Even the eponymous Knight in Shining Armor sapient supertanks start cracking under the weight of their orders by the end, succumbing to bloodlust. When one of the very few surviving Bolos, Shiva, reawakens, he is horrified by the atrocities that he himself had not been above committing under the pretense of following orders.
  • This is brought up in The Book Thief, as a young German girl and her adopted family living in Germany during World War II and aren't living in the best conditions. What was particularly heartbreaking was when the street they were living in was accidentally bombed and everyone except the little girl died. It's quite harsh when you realize that it was the Allies who did that.
  • A subtle, but constant theme in the Honor Harrington series. Every battle will mention the human cost, and nearly Anyone Can Die. Weber has said, in an interview, that you need to do this if you're doing military fiction.
    "Military fiction in which only bad people—-the ones the readers want to die—-die and the heroes don't suffer agonizing personal losses isn't military fiction: it's military pornography. Someone who write [sic] military fiction has a responsibility to show the human cost, particular [sic] because so few of his readers may have any personal experience with that cost.
  • The Underland Chronicles and The Hunger Games series, both by Suzanne Collins.
    • Mockingjay, the third Hunger Games book, is very very antiwar. The book is mainly about the PTSD-stricken heroine being used as a pawn by both sides of a war between the rebels and the Capitol. And at the end, she finds out that President Coin, the leader of the resistance movement, hijacked a Capitol airship and bombed a group of children to make it look like the Capitol did it, purposefully sending in Katniss's little sister so that she would be slaughtered too, so as to emotionally damage Katniss since she had outlived her usefulness. In other words, the theme of the book is that no matter what there will be horrible people on either side of a war and innocents and pawns will always have to die in their crossfire.
    • In The Underland Chronicles, Gregor realizes this is true for both the Underland and Overland in the ending chapter.
  • Fate/Zero, Fate/stay night's Light Novel prequel, shows just how brutal and unforgiving the fourth Holy Grail War was, with mass murder, deception, betrayal, and all the terrible things the Masters do just to get a chance to win the coveted Holy Grail.
  • Dale Brown tears strips out of Elites Are More Glamorous in his works. You may be a member of a top secret unit with the Bigger Stick, but the numbers will always be on the enemy's side. Plan for every contingency, do your best, and at best the enemy will still get licks in. At worst, friends and trusted comrades will die. Succeed and no one will know your name; fail and at best you die, at worst you are disavowed, thrown to the wolves of public opinion as a sacrifice by uncaring superiors. War is never pretty even from behind a drone control station.
  • The Horatio Hornblower books do not make any attempts to conceal the awfulness of British Navy life in the Napoleonic Wars. What with the gory descriptions of battle, hideous injury, worse medical care, brutal discipline, and foul food and water (this last is not inconsequential), the lead at one point thinks that the prison volunteers on his crew would have done better to stay in jail.
  • The Vorkosigan Saga plays with this trope a lot. For a Military SF series, there's not a whole lot of actual warfare going on; instead there's tons of low-level skulduggery and spy versus spy shenanigans to prevent full-scale wars from breaking out. The very few times some real mayhem occurs, we always get to see the consequences.
  • This is one of the main themes in Andrey Livadny's The History of the Galaxy books, especially the books that take place during the First Galactic War, a 30-year bloodbath started when the dictator-ruled Earth Alliance destroys the Dabog colony as a lesson to the other Free Colonies, sparking The War Of Earthy Aggression that eventually resulted in the total defeat of Earth and the establishment of the Confederacy of Suns. Since the novels are focused on characters, we get to experience the full extent of the horrors of war, especially, as the author calls it, the "technogenic" war, in which rapid technological progress has resulted in more ways to wipe out your fellow man than one can count. The full extent can be seen in novels featuring Humongous Mecha fights (of the Real Robot kind). The novel Serv-batallion as it shows a group of teens from Earth being conscripted to fight a war they don't support and, essentially, sacrificed by their commanding officer in order to get a Colonial Wave-Motion Gun. Other novels involve war vets trying to adjust to living in a post-war galaxy.
  • Almost any StarCraft novel where the main characters are soldiers will have this as one of its themes. The notable examples are Speed of Darkness (in which a forcibly-conscripted Confederate marine takes part in one of the first engagements with the Zerg) and Heaven's Devils, featuring Jim Raynor as a fresh Confederate recruit who bought into the War Is Glorious propaganda before finding out for himself that it's far from it. The latter case actually takes place before the game's storyline and features the war between the Confederacy of Man and the Kel-Morian Combine, with both governments being full of corruption and greed. There is plenty of both heroic and senseless deaths (such as one of the main characters' Love Interest being suddenly shot through the eye by a sniper).
  • In Larry Niven's Known Space stories, advances in weapons technology over the next thousand years makes combat so horrible that most people simply cannot bear it. The government intentionally keeps a "stable" of sociopaths and psychopaths (either natural or chemically induced) just to do the fighting, because performing an act of violence with a modern weapon is so horrible the very thought sickens the average citizen of earth to the point of catatonia.
  • Someone Else's War is pretty much "War is Hell: The Novel." Told from the point of view of Child Soldiers.
  • Timothy Findley's The Wars, set in World War I.
  • Katherine Kerr's Deverry Cycle books are mostly set in a recurring cycle of bloodshed and violence. The events of 835-843 are especially stark in being this. The main timeline is nicer, but the peasantry still doesn't fare well when the Lords go to war.
  • The Tortall Universe's portrayals of war are never pleasant. Even the most justified wars, such as the ones fighting against the personification of chaos or overthrowing a highly corrupt government, are shown to be gory and brutal, killing far too many innocents.
  • Though less prominent, at least at first, still present in the Circle of Magic. For example, Briar comes back from Yanjing suffering from extreme PTSD from the war he fought through there. All the reader knows about it comes from horrible nightmares he experiences, but the upcomingBattle Mages promising to go through it in all its bloody terror.
  • The Shaara American Civil War trilogy (Gods and Generals, The Killer Angels, and The Last Full Measure) take pains to depict the brutality, disease, Worst Aid, boredom, and general horror of the war. Of note are the slaughter of surrendering black troops in the Battle of the Crater, Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg, and the literal hell of The Wilderness when many of the wounded die in brush fires.
  • The Dresden Files and Codex Alera books (both by Jim Butcher) employ this trope in Urban Fantasy and High Fantasy settings. While the combat provides many opportunities for the protagonists to do no end of ridiculously awesome things, neither do the books shy away from showing how much mental and physical damage conflict does both to the combatants and the civilians. While various candidates for Big Bad may use war for their own ambition, they never believe War Is Glorious (and anyone who does espouse that mindset is either seen as an idiot or is deliberately using it to manipulate others) and however cool the battles may be, the books do not for a moment suggest that the awesomeness outweighs the suffering and brutality.
  • A recurring theme in the novels of Sven Hassel.
  • Though Inheritance Cycle has endured criticism for glorifying war, the characters regularly discuss how fighting and killing stains both their hands and their souls, how it gives them nightmares and troubles them during the day besides and try to find ways to resolve conflicts peacefully when they can.
  • Remember To Always Be Brave: the whole world feels this way after the heavy hits of the war between the Roman Republic and the Alliance, with no detail glossed over in the toil of morale, mind, or cost - especially to innocents and non-combatants.
  • Cilva, the prequel to Remember To Always Be Brave, showcases this on a much more personal side, and the breakdown of order due to political interference and unforeseen events.
  • In the Star Wars novel Heir to the Jedi, Luke Skywalker notes that since he got drawn into the war against the Galactic Empire, he's seen constant battle, friends dying, etc. Maybe things weren't so awful moisture-farming on Tatooine.
  • Ezylryb from Guardians of Ga'Hoole is a firm believer in this. He was a powerful soldier in the Kielian League army until his mate Lil dies in battle. From then on, he becomes more of a teacher and a pacifist, only fighting back if necessary.
  • Dave Barry Slept Here tends to omit most actual details of wars on the grounds that they were "extremely depressing and in many cases fatal."
  • In A Symphony of Eternity we have the Volunian war in which millions of soldiers have died have died and before that there was the war for what in now The Occupied Teritories where hundreds of millions died in the war, the real kicker? Both are considered TERTIARY fronts and MINOR AND BRIEF conflicts!
  • In The Dinosaur Lords, the story doesn't shy away from showing realities of medieval warfare. People lose their friends, many die horribly in combat, Rape, Pillage, and Burn is the order of the day and when one character wakes up in a recent battlefied, his description makes it look like literal hellscape.
  • Sarny takes place during and after The American Civil War. It doesn't sugarcoat the events. Sarny comes across numerous soldiers from both sides (many who were only teenagers), civilians, and horses brutally injured or dead because of the war. One chapter has her and Lucy staying with four dying soldiers who were shot in the stomach. It took them two days to die. Another has them come across an abandoned house where everyone was killed except for a toddler who is too traumatized after the events to speak.
  • Wolf Hall alludes to this a few times when Thomas Cromwell thinks back on his past career as a mercenary. When people like the Duke of Suffolk rail that Henry was "only fifty miles" from Paris, Cromwell notes that fifty miles to a king is a lot different than fifty miles to a battle-weary, exhausted soldier on bad roads. He was also on the French side of the Battle of Garigliano, where they lost 4,000 to the Italians' 900, and while it's not made clear (like much of the chronology of his Mysterious Past) that seems to have been the point when he dragged himself to a banker's house half-dead to beg for a job.
  • The Black Company is a dark fantasy series about mercenary company walking from one war to another, with a fair share of civil wars mixed in. Having "With Great Power Comes Great Insanity" and "power corrupts" running full swings together with absurly powerful wizards and dark cults doesn't help.
  • Garrett, P.I. does not put this is a main theme of the work, but on the regular occasions it does pop up, it is played straight to extreme. After all, the major war was running for more than the main character lived, and everyone old enough served through it.
    • Unusually, the series also addresses how the end of warfare is also Hell, with the too-abrupt cessation of hostilities causing an economic and racial upheaval, a wave of authoritarian crackdowns by the government, and a new generation of upper-class snots who've never learned that they bleed as easily as the underclasses. And that's for the nation that won the war: the opposing empire is rumored to have fallen into complete chaos, with former troops pillaging their own homeland or languishing as permanent POWs because their rulers are in too much disarray to petition for their release.
  • The Crimson Shadow: Luthien's father warns him that unlike in stories this is how it really turns out to be. Luthien later learns this is true for himself.
  • The Anglo Saxon Chronicle partially subverts the assertion on the Analysis page that "not many" of the common people could write about their experiences, or knew anyone who could write that cared. Its entry for the year 1137 is a harrowing litany of the horrors experienced by great and humble alike in the anarchy associated with the dynastic war between Stephen and Matilda, rivals for the crown.
    "They were all forsworn, and forgetful of their troth, for every rich man built his castles, which they held against him: and they filled the land full of castles. They cruelly oppressed the wretched men of the land with castle-works; and when the castles were made, they filled them with devils and evil men.... Many thousands they wore out with hunger. I neither can, nor may I tell all the wounds and all the pains which they inflicted on wretched men in this land. This lasted the nineteen winters while Stephen was king; and it grew continually worse and worse. They constantly laid guilds on the towns, and called it "tenserie"; and when the wretched men had no more to give, then they plundered and burned all the towns; that well thou mightest go a whole day's journey and never shouldest thou find a man sitting in a town, nor the land tilled. Then was corn dear, and flesh, and cheese, and butter; for none was there in the land. Wretched men starved of hunger. Some had recourse to alms, who were for a while rich men, and some fled out of the land. Never yet was there more wretchedness in the land; nor ever did heathen men worse than they did: for, after a time, they spared neither church nor churchyard, but took all the goods that were therein, and then burned the church and all together."
  • The non-fiction Storm of Steel, a Imperial German officer's account of World War I, is a pretty gruelling account of what day to day life was like for the average soldier. Unlike many other people writing about this particular war, the author doesn't see it as a brutal and pointless slaughter. While he often fears for his life, and would of course prefer not to have to kill anyone, he nevertheless seems to portray combat as a kind of boys' own adventure, not "fun," exactly, but still very exciting and preferable to dull civilian life, making Storm of Steel in some ways a subversion despite all the horrible things described in it.
  • Pretty much the primary theme of Space Opera series Lucifer's Star that does a Deconstruction of typical good vs. evil. Its protagonist was an Elite Mook of The Empire and we follow his story after the war as he witnesses terrorism, popular uprising, cycles of revenge, and more.
  • In The Machineries of Empire, Cheris knowingly sends thousands of soldiers to their deaths, loses more by bad luck or simple wartime activities, and has to do some very questionable things to achieve victory. Suffice to say, it takes its toil on her.
  • Mahabharata might be one of the oldest example of the trope, despite the kshatriya caste constant insistence that War Is Glorious (beside being their noble obligation). Many honorable characters abandoned their virtues when push becomes shove, hundreds of thousands dead from both sides of the war, the Kuru dynasty is left with only one heir that only because of a divine intervention he survives before dying of another curse, the bitterness caused by the deaths creates a Cycle of Revenge that destroys more dynasties. And everyone goes to hell anyway because of the sins committed at the war.
  • Dogfight—1973 by Mack Reynolds. Used for the punchline of this 1953 sci-fi story; The Reveal is that the dogfight is actually being fought by remote piloted drones, and the war is hell because the 'pilot' will be late for dinner because of the debriefing. Becomes Harsher in Hindsight given the use of drones now, not to mention all-too-real air combat was taking place in the Middle East in 1973.
  • "Okuyyuki": Readily acknowledged by Captain Reilly, as he faces The War on Terror. In spite of that, he still wants to be in it, though he knows that won't be true for everyone.
  • Zigzaged all over the place in The Heroes. The author explains in the foreword that he didn't just want to show that War is Hell, but to explore why it nevertheless has such a hold on human imagination. Thus, we get to see both the stupidity and waste and horror of it and the way it can turn men into monsters, but also examples of how it brings out the best in some people, and how the constant danger and the bonds among soldiers can be so addictive as to make someone who's gotten used to them feel like a peaceful civilian life is hardly worth living.
  • In Nine Goblins, the war is depicted not so much as horrific (though it has its moments) as wasteful and tragic, and caused mainly by misunderstandings and meaningless discrimination.
  • Mark Twain's "The War Prayer" is about a Prayer of Malice being delivered in a church, beseeching God protect and aid the soldiers going off to battle. And then comes in an aged stranger, delivering the unspoken portion of the prayer in which he describes, in lurid detail, the iniquities that will be visited on their foes if God were to grant the spoken portion of the prayer.
    O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended in the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames in summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it.
  • Xandri Corelel: The battle in Tone of Voice between the Last Hope for Humanity and the Starsystems Alliance takes place on two fronts, in the ocean and in the jungle. The ocean battle sees massive casualties on both sides, with many humans and Voices killed and mangled. The jungle battle goes a lot better for the Alliance, but Xandri is still traumatized from seeing her allies dead or wounded.
    All the gunfire filled the air with smoke and vile smell, and as the sun began to climb above the horizon, shedding reddish-orange light beneath the canopy, I began to grasp the Christian image of Hell.
  • Redwall: For a children's series, Redwall doesn't hold back too many punches. In the first book, at the end of the first battle with Cluny's horde, mention is made of the price of the battle - freshly dug graves and a filled infirmary.
  • In Back Story to "Lynortis Reprise", two-year-long siege of Lynortis was a nightmare for everyone involved, the attackers, the defenders and the civilians. Soldiers died by the thousands, killed by siege engines, burnt by white phosphorus or deadly poisonous gases, while civilians starved. There was no way to bury or burn all the dead, so plagues raged. It was so bad that the half-men—maimed survivors from both sides of the conflict, who decided to stay in Lynortis's ruins—worship "The Bringer of Peace", that is the traitor who finally led Masale's armies into the city through hidden passages, even thought it ended in a massacre. The traitor Kane himself thought it was a Hopeless War and just wanted everything to end.
  • Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson is for most part set "somewhere in France" during World War I. Lily volunteers to be sent as an ambulance driver to the Western Front, which means she gets to see up close and personal the life in a field hospital, as well as maimed and wounded soldiers who are later dying of infection because of the lack of antiseptics. And then her beloved brother, a soldier, is declared missing...
  • Antti Tuuri's The Winter War makes the reality of the war clear, even though the story is narrated long afterwards, in a chatty way and with the immediate terror absent.
  • The Arts of Dark and Light generally treats war as a horror, some Ernst Jünger-like POV nods to its awesomeness notwithstanding. "The Wardog's Coin" especially emphasizes this, but there is no shortage of examples in the main sequence. Good people die, innocent people die, people of all sorts are abused, crippled, driven from their homes, deprived of all they value in life, crushed and broken in spirit until this becomes almost too clear. The Church agrees, calling war one of the foremost evil fruits of a sinful fallen world (though it recognizes that just wars may still be necessary to defend good against evil).


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