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Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War Paperback – April 12, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 113 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review


Military Review, March/April 2011

“Insightful, colorful, and at times irreverent…An excellent snapshot of a junior officer embroiled in a counterinsurgency fight…An exceptionally engaging read.”


Entertainment Weekly Online, 4/7/11

“Simultaneously blisteringly funny and dead serious.”
 

Smoke, April 2011
“A sardonic, unnerving, one-of-a-kind Iraq war memoir…Kaboom resonates with stoical detachment from and timeless insight into a war that we are still trying to understand.”

 
Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/13/11

“Gallagher's writing is raw and uncensored, and also very good. In the midst of a war we're still struggling to understand, it's a privilege to understand very well at least one person's part in it.”

WomanAroundTown.com, 6/5/11

“Irreverent, terrifying, and very humorous, Gallagher’s book will make some people angry, and will validate the suppositions of others.”


Bangkok Post (Thailand), 8/14/11
“Gallagher’s compelling work…offers the reader an unfiltered, brutally honest look into the life of a young lieutenant struggling to bring some semblance of security and stability to a very unsecure and unstable place.”
 

Portland Book Review, 9/17/11
“Gallagher’s unbridled candor recounting his time in Iraq is shocking, frightening and at times, deals with the mundane rigors of army life, but is ultimately to be commended…A compelling read… Kaboom allows the reader to ride alongside an officer’s day to day life in a war zone.”
 
SmallWarsJournal.com, 9/19/11
“Gallagher’s Kaboom, simply stated, will likely be remembered as the quintessential memoir of his generation’s combat experiences, particularly in Iraq.  Not only does it successfully combine the finest authorial innovations of blogging with finest aspects of traditional memoir writing, but it easily and slyly avoids the traps of each as well.  It is unabashedly self-centered and self-aware, but manages to sound anything but self-absorbed.  It is full of pop culture references, clever writing, and the cynicism that accompanies his generation without sounding for a second like it is contrived or flimsy. In a word, his work is authentic, a rendering of wartime experiences that has been experienced by nearly his entire generation of warriors but has not been matched by his generation of writers…Mostly, though, this is just a beautifully written book that speaks for many who share Gallagher’s experiences.”


Blogcritics.org, 2/13/12
“Gallagher pins down the modern-day experience of war and its maze of contradictions…A gutsy, keenly observed tale.”



New York Times, 12/25/14
“Radiate[s] a powerful you-are-there immediacy. Mr. Gallagher’s book underscores his love of language, acquired as an avid reader, and his elastic voice as a writer—his ability to move effortlessly between the earnest and the irreverent, the thoughtful and the comic.”

Library Journal, 12/31/15
“The moving, transformational journey of party “bro” Gallagher who turns compassionate lieutenant.”
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; Reprint edition (April 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306819678
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306819674
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #322,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert G. Leroe VINE VOICE on April 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As a retired LTC and combat veteran, I found Kaboom hard to put down. It offers a platoon-level gritty look at what happens outside the wire where the real conflict is found. I've nothing against the desk jockeys who enable the action, so long as they don't impede it (sometimes they do). LT G gets dirty with the troops and into the scary places where things are happening--namely, missions of substance. While some things don't change in war, every war has its own unique touches, vocabulary, and frustrations. His depiction of the diverse people, both US and Iraqi, are outstanding. Every war has its characters, heroes, and screw-ups. I came away from this book with a better appreciation of the feel of the war. Vividly depicted are the conflicts with higher-ups, the various dangers on the ground, responding to change, funny stuff happening, and all very human, very real. This should be required reading for Officers Basic, every branch.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Junior officer Matt Gallagher parlayed his 15 minutes of fame as a widely-read military blogger into a contract for this memoir of his 15-month deployment in Iraq, where he was assigned to lead a cavalry platoon in counterinsurgency duties in a small desert municipality. Later, he gets in trouble when he submits an unauthorized blog entry complaining about an irrational promotion that takes him away from his beloved platoon, but he gets kicked upstairs anyway and spends nearly half of his deployment as an intelligence captain near Sadr City. Gallagher's sympathy, and his strongest material, lies with the first section of the memoir in which he is actually leading soldiers in dangerous situations -- he wisely emphasizes this part of his war experience in the book.

It's interesting to see what modern war looks like, and Gallagher writes an engaging picture of it. Counterinsurgency is more like what we would think of as policing than the types of battles we associate with war in the movies -- diplomacy and the coolheadedness not to shoot in panic situations are more important to his mission than violence. Throughout his deployment, neither Gallagher nor anyone in his unit is injured in combat or fires upon anyone. The greatest loss to his unit comes in an accidental fire that critically burns a member of his platoon; the greatest loss of innocence he experiences is when he gives a conditional order to fire, even though circumstances make it unnecessary for his men to shoot anyone on his orders. But some military experience is universal, and the usual ground-level gripes about the bizarre and labyrinthine American military bureaucracy get a thorough airing here. (You'd think after all this time we'd have figured a way around that.
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By Tnkboy on March 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My copy of Kaboom arrived Thursday at 2pm. I started reading it at 3:30 pm expecting to knock out a chapter or two a day until I'd finished it. By 6:53 pm that same day I had finished the entire book. It drew me in within the first three paragraphs and didn't let go. Well written account of what it was like over there dealing with the complex, wild world of COIN while dealing with sheiks who want to make a difference in their country, or sheiks who only want to make a buck.

Superiors out to make a name for themselves at the expense of their character, our how tight the common Soldier bonds with other Soldiers of all races and nationalities that they may have never even spoken to had they passed each other on the streets as civilians.

If you're looking for intense combat,with bullets flying on every page then go pick up a few copies of a Sgt Rock comic book. If you want a realistic look into a 15 month deployment on the tail end of The Surge in a COIN fight while trying to maintain your sanity and sense of purpose,while staying true to yourself,your country,and your Soldiers and while managing to make sense of this period of the war that the Soldiers were living,scarifying,fighting and dying in while the rest of America was at the mall,then this book is for you.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I wanted to enjoy this book -- I really did -- and I tried -- but the writing was just not overly compelling. Maybe this has to do with the fact that I was a combat officer in Iraq in 2004 and in Afghanistan in 2008. I could understand and empathize with the author and the challenges he faced, but after each small entry, I was left with the feeling that the good Lieutenant was in over his head. Although he purported all his actions were about his men on the line, there was an underlying sense of selfishness I was left with by his descriptions of his interaction with his soldiers and those around him. Also, the author used the rape analogy way to many times to describe his time in Iraq -- a bit off putting.

I find tremendous value in these memories and I usually snap them right up as I want to be reassured others experienced the horror's of war as I did and I firmly believe more people need to know the stories from Iraq. This story though just did not satisfy.
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Format: Hardcover
With a unique voice and from an uncommon perspective, Matt captures his experience as a tactical-level Army combat leader operating in the Baghdad Province of Iraq on the coattails of the surge. Through his often detached, tell-it-like-it-is style, Matt presents his readers with a first-hand account of what it is like to lead Soldiers in a modern counterinsurgency environment. I believe that readers quickly understand that such responsibility in said environment is wrought in complexity and frustration and requires young leaders like Matt to perform as diplomats, pacifiers, and policemen- an amalgamation far above the stereotype of meathead Soldier. The insight that Matt is availed and then paints for readers of Kaboom is a relatively unknown picture of the day-to-day struggles in Iraq that supersedes those provided by embedded journalists and other media outlets. Matt depicts his dealings with shady Sheiks, his platoon's partnership with the often amateurish Iraqi Security Forces, and the misgivings he sees in the leadership and actions of his superiors. A most gripping aspect of Matt's shared reality is that while his leadership role forced him to follow sometimes fuzzy orders in the most obscure of military operating environments, it is the Troopers he led- very well-intentioned, admirable men, ripped from a cross-section of America and smartly depicted in this book- that kept Matt poised and propelled him through day upon arduous day. This account is not only a page-turner because it presents the harsh, eye-opening realities of actual military operations, but it is Matt's distinct literary style, boosted by his ability to find the humorous amongst the sometimes desperate and destitute, that keeps the reader yearning for more. No matter where you place yourself on the political spectrum or how you live as an American, this book will educate, entertain, and hopefully deepen your sense of appreciation for those military personnel deployed to combat zones.
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