Clearly, the quality of the dialogue is critical for an enterprise like this, and here Floyd succeeds admirably. The characters speak and interact naturalistically, thankfully without the linguistic anachronisms which often afflict attempts to reproduce the speech of people in the fairly recent past. Incidentally, the words spoken by General MacArthur and Admiral Rockwell are authentic and are taken verbatim from contemporary records.
We see events almost entirely through the eyes of one man, Charles Conrad Beckner. We meet him first on his family farm in Idaho during the Depression. He soon leaves home to join the Navy, in which he becomes a hospital corpsman, an enlisted medical specialist. We follow him through his training, after which he is posted to the Philippines. At first his life is pretty comfortable but there is growing awareness of the threat from Japan, which culminates in an actual air attack. After the Pearl Harbor disaster it becomes increasingly apparent that the garrison in the Philippines cannot hope for an early rescue from the USA mainland, and in fact they are expected simply to delay the Japanese invasion as much as possible before inevitable defeat—hence the title of the book.
As well as carrying out his medical duties, Charles trains as a machine gunner and serves in this capacity on a flying boat and later on a patrol torpedo boat. Finally all the boats are lost and death or surrender look like the only options; but at the very last moment Charles and a few of his comrades escape to Australia in a partially crippled seaplane.
Floyd heard about some of these events first-hand from Charles himself—he was Floyd's father-in-law—but he was a reserved man, reticent about his wartime experiences, and was by no means Floyd's only source. The book is the result of an impressive amount of research, which, however, is well integrated into the story and never becomes obtrusive. I found the book thoroughly absorbing as a story, conveying a genuine sense of mounting tension even though we know from the outset that Charles will survive. And it isn't just an adventure story; we get a real insight into Charles's complex and constantly developing character. It's a remarkable achievement.
The book is also valuable as history, particularly for non-American readers. Like many British people, I suppose, I knew less than I should about the USA's war in the Pacific and nothing at all about what happened there in the first few months after Pearl Harbor. This book has left me wanting to learn more.