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Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War Hardcover – March 23, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
In this hauntingly direct war memoir, a cocky West Coast frat boy becomes a reflective leader in the later part of the Iraq conflict. Not long after his 2007 deployment, Lt. Gallagher had become a much-read blogger, but his blunt account ran afoul of the higher-ups. In this blog-like memoir of his year-plus in Iraq, he provides an episodic, day-by-day account of life during wartime, covering everything from the fear of shooting innocent citizens to the impact of a Dear John letter on a unit. Gallagher employs a close eye and enormous compassion when recounting tragedies like a horrible explosive accident and pervasive poverty and despair in an area known as "trash village." Gallagher's vivid, atmospheric descriptions can occasionally get away from him ("It was modern Iraq, permanently soaked in a blood-red-sea past it would never be able to part"), but he provides much canny, moving commentary on the power of war to transform soldiers and civilians: "Suddenly the stare was the norm house by house, block by block, and town by town, and all of the flower petals dried up, and we suddenly recognized that those cheers of gratitude were actually pleas for salvation."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Washington Post, 8/28/10
“[A] half comic, half heart-breaking hour-by-hour account.”
“Readable, often humorous…Convey[s] a sense of what the tip of the spear Soldier and his company grade leaders experienced on an Iraq deployment…For anyone wishing to get a genuine feel for recent deployment experiences of today’s Army company grade officer, this book will go a long way in delivering a realistic and candid view…Get a copy and put it on your reading list.”
“[A] gritty memoir about modern warfare in the Mideast.”
Entertainment Weekly, 4/30/10
“as funny as it is harrowing.”
InternetReviewofBooks.com, April 2010
“[Gallagher] proves himself a gifted writer in this boots-on-the-ground report, with some of his prose echoing the scattershot riffs of Dylan without the guitar…[His] analysis of his situation, his troopers, the rear echelon, the high command, the profiteers, and the Iraqis (friend and foe) is insightful and candid...Gallagher simply gives a platoon leader’s perspective of an ugly war that has cost our nation so much in so many ways. Perhaps it is best to think of the young lieutenant’s memoir as one more paving stone for the road toward a fair historical assessment that our grandchildren may appreciate.”
Galveston Daily News, 4/18/10
“While the opening of the book borrows heavily from the blog, it doesn’t simply regurgitate his blog postings. Gallagher adds material that puts his experiences in context and rewrote much of the rest. Unchanged is what made the blog so delightful—the irreverence of his words and the immediacy of what he experienced...Kaboom offers an intimate and poignant look at the rough men willing to do violence so good people can sleep peacefully in their beds—during a period that tested those men to their limits. It is well worth reading.”
Library Journal, 4/1/10
“[Gallagher’s] exceptional narrative technique makes the soldier in-group cant both believable and coherent; his relentless pursuit of sanity in the midst of a chaotic storm of IEDs, policy changes, sheiks, civilians, and baffling missions makes this blog-based memoir an exciting read reminiscent of Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead.”
Zink magazine, April 2010
“Kaboom is nothing short of purely honest, unabashedly descriptive and unexpectedly humorous.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 4/4/10
“An oddly fascinating account of the high points (and low points) of Gallagher’s 15-month deployment…Kaboom will generate strong responses from readers.”
The New Republic, 6/11/10
“A vivid and introspective chronicle of Gallagher’s fifteen months in Iraq…Its aim is simple: to explain what it is like to wage an unconventional war…Unlike a journalist, whose Heisenberg-like presence inevitably distorts, Gallagher is able to candidly depict the lighter moments of war…And Gallagher gives the book’s characters…much more than the name-rank-hometown exposition that too often flattens soldiers in print…Evocative prose, convincing dialogue, and, especially, telling vignettes of life as an American soldier in Iraq.”
Tucson Citizen, 6/14/10
"[Gallagher] freely shares what it was like to face the ever-presence threat of snipers and roadside bombs. He debates the effectiveness of the overall military strategy of the latest surge and struggles to understand the big picture in a memoir that is honest, candid, and insightful.”
“Beautifully written, literary in its approach, and looks to be a good companion to [Rage Company’s] more Spartan, unadorned take on the business end of surge operations and counterinsurgency.”
Military Times, 5/24/10
“Kaboom is funny and profound, urbane and vulgar, witty and worthwhile…Photos with informative captions, and an index [are] the only pages in Kaboom without a sense of humor…As jaw-dropping, laugh-inducing and eye-opening as any life-threatening rollercoaster ride in a war zone.”
Sacramento Book Review, 5/26/10
“A candid look at counterinsurgency warfare…Gallagher’s descriptions of daily interactions between his soldiers, civilians, sheiks, Iraqi army, and Iraqi police will keep most readers turning the pages. He conveys the terrible stress soldiers face in dangerous situations, while also communicating the marathon tedium of their daily lives…An excellent book for anyone interested in the observations, expectations, humor, and work ethic of the next generation of American leaders.”
St. Petersburg Times, 5/30/10
“A memoir by turns harrowing, hilarious and absurd.”
"Combines the stark reality of war with humor as Gallagher describes his daily activities."―Syracuse Post-Standard, 11/1/16
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Top Customer Reviews
He also walked the walk, talked the talk and lived the life for a full tour, so he earned the right to be angry at the stupidity of this war. Not that the war was any more evil than any other, but the way it was waged was clearly banal and wasteful and tragic.
I emerged from the young captain's book as he did from the war: sobered, saddened and thankful that he survived to write it.
The writing evokes responses which include hilarity, concern, frustration and more hilarity. I have a different, and in some ways more comforting, viewpoint about the experiences our troups have had in the Middle East. And I had a sense as I read this book that its author respects his readers as he clearly respected those with whom he served. The book is straightfoward, in a way that is compellingly twisted at times.
I look forward to reading future works by Matt, as his style brings things home.
His description of the complexities of dealing with the various local tribes and factions, gives the reader an idea of what the average soldier on the ground goes through on a daily basis.
The men in his unit are brought to life and the reader is aware of the cross section of young American soldiers being asked to do a job with no end in sight.
Very good read and I hightly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good personal memoir.