Phil Klay's Redeployment takes listeners to the frontlines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, asking us to understand what happened there, and what happened to the soldiers who returned. Interwoven with themes of brutality and faith, guilt and fear, helplessness and survival, the characters in these stories struggle to make meaning out of chaos.
In Redeployment, a soldier who has had to shoot dogs because they were eating human corpses must learn what it is like to return to domestic life in suburbia, surrounded by people "who have no idea where Fallujah is, where three members of your platoon died." In "After Action Report", a Lance Corporal seeks expiation for a killing he didn't commit, in order that his best friend will be unburdened.
A Morturary Affairs Marine tells about his experiences collecting remains - of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers both. A chaplain sees his understanding of Christianity, and his ability to provide solace through religion, tested by the actions of a ferocious Colonel. And in the darkly comic "Money as a Weapons System", a young Foreign Service Officer is given the absurd task of helping Iraqis improve their lives by teaching them to play baseball. These stories reveal the intricate combination of monotony, bureaucracy, comradeship and violence that make up a soldier's daily life at war, and the isolation, remorse, and despair that can accompany a soldier's homecoming.
Redeployment is poised to become a classic in the tradition of war writing. Across nations and continents, Klay sets in devastating relief the two worlds a soldier inhabits: one of extremes and one of loss. Written with a hard-eyed realism and stunning emotional depth, this work marks Phil Klay as one of the most talented new voices of his generation.
©2014 Phil Klay (P)2014 Penguin Audio
I am an avid listener. I listen between 75-100 hours per month on my iPhone: 60% fiction to 40% non-fiction.
This book is a collection of short stories. Each story makes its point but leaves you with something to consider. The author does not preach but offers a perspective the each and every main character's POV in each short. This offers us the opportunity to experience the circumstances first hand and unfiltered. Some of the stories are more traumatic than others. There is a touch of gruesomeness of war, but no more than you would find in a Steven King novel and these stories are real. I like the book precisely because it make you think instead of telling you how it is.
Although the narrator is good, the transition from one story to the next sometimes jars you as the narrator switch personas without changing voice. It would have been more effective if there were two narrators alternating each short.
The other thing that will be a little challenging is understanding all of the three letter acronyms. For example FOB mean forward operating base. Luckily I have a good grip on the vocabulary, but for some, you are going to have to use the Internet. My wife, daughter, and boyfriend of daughter are reading it while I listened. It is a part of our book circle. My daughter's boyfriend recommended it and it has been a excellent choice. I would recommend for a club setting. Those you loved Kite Runner may find this book interesting. I give it a thumbs up.
I was in the public library the other day and in the "quick reads" display there was a row of romance novels with pictures of male torsos and stories about tormented Navy SEALs and the women who love them. Under that shelf was a row of books with men in military garb with titles like "SEAL team 6: Under fire!". Under that shelf...yup...zombies and I'll stop there. I'm not against military fantasy but it's good to have some exposure to experiences closer to the reality of war and this group of stories delivers on that.
This is not an easy read, the stories are tough to read and there are some really disturbing moments. Some of the POV characters are not very likable and I appreciate that Klay is not trying to manipulate readers into liking all of these guys because it's not about that. It's really about getting a glimpse of what is going on in these people's lives who are sent to war.
I appreciated the soldier reaction to dealing with the mythos of soldiering including civilian preoccupation with all soldiers having PTSD, the sex appeal of men in uniform, and Americans thanking soldiers for their service whenever they see them in uniform.
The Foreign Service Officer story is my favorite as I was interested in joining the Foreign Service a few years ago. Hilarious and absurd. The supporting characters in this story are particularly entertaining; the jaded professor-translator, the hyper-positive assistant trying to make the world a better place, the major who competently plays the political game, and the consultant with the practical advice. All the supporting characters wiser than the protagonist who is in charge of the operation. This story would make a great book.
The only issue I had...not crazy about the narrator, the POV characters are different from each other in spirit and experience; he didn't always capture that. I still gave a high overall score because I could live with it.
No basis for comparison.
"The Things They Carried" which was also an insightful and well written war story.
In one story there was a written exchange between two Priests. The content of the letter was so beautifully written, it made me weep.
Among the best books I've ever read. Tries to tell all of the stories, not just the exciting ones. The list of characters spans from the expected (an Infantryman) to the unexpected (an Adjutant and a State Department Foreign Service Officer). The characters are rich and complex and just like real people, they will surprise you.
The stories varied in holding my interest. As a non-military person, after awhile I just let my mind skip over all the abbreviations which were like a foreign language. That said, this civilian gained an appreciation for the difficulty returning troops have adjusting to their new normal.
If the chapters had been either titled, or simply delineated by number, it would have been easier to follow.
I enjoyed this set of short stories about American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. I liked the variety, with so many different slices of military life. This was neither pro-military nor anti-military. It was about people, and the different ways war affects them. Some stories were very good, some good, and the rest were okay or forgettable. The best ones make this worth book listening to. The stories were mostly first person narratives, and while the narrator was very good, it was hard adjusting to different characters when the voice was the same. I think having different narrators for each story would have improved the book a lot. Based on the reviews, I expected almost all the stories to be great, and so too many left me wanting more, thus my 3 star rating. The two or three best stories make this a 3.5 book to me. Worth checking out if the subject interests you.
The horrors of the bureaucracy, folly, & brotherhood of war. It's all here in stark, sharp prose. It's the modern Iraq-war version of "The Things They Carried."
I thought this was pretty good, but not worthy of the National Book Award. For one thing, it is very difficult to distinguish any of the characters from each other. By the end of the book, I did not feel like I remembered many distinct characters or stories. It does provide interesting insight into what the war in Iraq was like, however.One thing that detracted from my reading was a lot of military acronyms that I mostly had no clue what they meant. A few stories were very disjointed to read because of so much military jargon. I felt like I needed time to absorb each story which related its own notable and important perspective.
Overall: You're not going to finish this book and feel good about it. Think of a dark, gloomy, and rainy day. That's how you'll feel when you finish this book.
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This riveting story helped me understand war and veterans more than any other book I have read. I finished with greater compassion for the challenges veterans face. Great book.
"There is scarcely any passion without struggle." Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays
Many times I'll buy a collection of short stories and read/listen to 3, one of which is good and the others afflicted by such eccentricities and affectations that I cannot get past the thought (which seems confirmed by research on the writer) that these are foibles foisted on the writer by one MFA program or another, or by trying too hard to come up with a ingenious story.
While I believe Mr. Klay has an MFA in creative writing, his writing is true and powerful because, it seems to me, he writes what he knows and what he knows has struck him in a way that he cannot help but write stories from the heart that are genuine and profound.
I highly recommend these stories, each of which moved me.
This book is among the best of its genre. What Matterhorn is to Viet Nam, Redepolyment is to Iraq. Each chapter provides a particular glimpse into the experiences of those who served. As a whole, the book is stunning and this audio version is exquisitely read.
Although I'm a combat veteran these stories contained too many acronyms for me to understand and enjoy them fully. It would help to have a glossary if the author insists on using so many acronyms. My advice? Skip this one , especially if you're not a veteran and therefore have no idea what an acronym might refer to.
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