“[Klay captures] on an intimate scale the ways in which the war in Iraq evoked a unique array of emotion, predicament and heartbreak. In Klay’s hands, Iraq comes across not merely as a theater of war but as a laboratory of the human condition in extremis. Redeployment is hilarious, biting, whipsawing and sad. It’s the best thing written so far on what the war did to people’s souls.” —Dexter Filkins, The New York Times Book Review
“In Redeployment, his searing debut collection of short stories, Phil Klay—a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, who served in Iraq during the surge—gives the civilian reader a visceral feeling for what it is like to be a soldier in a combat zone, and what it is like to return home, still reeling from the dislocations of war. Gritty, unsparing and fiercely observed, these stories leave us with a harrowing sense of the war in Iraq as it was experienced, day by day, by individual soldiers.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“The best literary work thus far written by a veteran of America’s recent wars….Klay’s fiction peels back every pretty falsehood and self-delusion in the encounter between veterans and the people for whom they supposedly fought.” —George Packer, The New Yorker
“An excellent, upsetting debut collection of short stories. Klay’s own view is everywhere, existential and practical, at home and abroad, distributed with wonderful clarity of voice and harrowing specificity of experience among Army chaplains, enlisted men, Foreign Service officers, members of Mortuary Affair, and more.” —Kathryn Schulz, New York Magazine
“The influences behind Mr. Klay’s writing go far beyond Iraq. At times Redeployment recapitulates the remarkably tender, self-conscious style that Tim O’Brien forged from his experiences in Vietnam…Mr. Klay is able to surprise and provoke….Mr. Klay gives a deeply disquieting view of a generation of soldiers reared on war’s most terrible contradictions.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Klay—a Marine who served during the surge—has an eye and an ear for a single searing line of dialogue or a scene of maddening dissonance that can pierce your soul….Klay brilliantly manages to wring some sense out of the nonsensical—resulting in an extraordinary, if unnerving, literary feat.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Klay’s closely observed debut collection of stories…makes a fine contribution….Klay establishes an impressive authority over his subject, which he maintains throughout the book in a clipped and jargon-laden prose.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“One of the best debuts of the year.” —Portland Oregonian
“In a book that’s drawing comparisons to classic war literature like Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, Klay examines the deep conflict, in all of us, between wanting to tell our stories and wanting to protect them from being diminished or misunderstood.” —Men’s Journal
“Phil Klay has written brilliant, true, and winning fiction on the Iraq War.” —Daily Beast
“Perhaps the most vital short story collection to emerge in the past few years….Redeployment falls somewhere between the in-the-trenches lyricism of Kevin Powers’s The Yellow Birds and the bold satire of Ben Fountain’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. And yet, it feels more urgent than both…. Redeployment is urgent, smart, and darkly comic.” —Grantland
“Klay grasps both tough-guy characterization and life spent in the field, yet he also mines the struggle of soldiers to be emotionally freed from the images they can’t stop seeing. It’s clear that Klay, himself a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who served in Iraq, has parlayed his insider’s knowledge of soldier-bonding and emotional scarring into a collection that proves a powerful statement on the nature of war, violence, and the nuances of human nature.” —Publishers Weekly (starred)
“A sharp set of stories….Klay’s grasp of bureaucracy and bitter irony here rivals Joseph Heller and George Orwell….A no-nonsense and informed reckoning with combat.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“Important reading; pay attention.” —Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
“Harrowing at times and blackly comic at others, the author’s first collection could become for the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts what Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried is for the Vietnam War.” —Lawrence Rungren, Library Journal
“If you want to know the real cost of war for those who do the fighting, read Redeployment. These stories say it all, with an eloquence and rare humanity that will simultaneously break your heart and give you reasons to hope.” —Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
“Klay’s writing is searing and powerful, unsparing of its characters and its readers…These stories demand and deserve our attention.” —Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia! and Vampires in the Lemon Grove
“As we try to understand the human costs of yet another foreign conflict, Phil Klay brings us the stories of the American combatants, told in a distinct, new, and powerful voice.” —Nathan Englander, author of What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank
“Phil Klay’s stories are tightly wound psychological thrillers. The global wars of our last decade weave in and out of these affecting tales about characters who sound and feel like your neighbors. Klay comes to us through Leo Tolstoy, Ray Carver, and Ann Beattie. It’s a thrill to read a young writer so brilliantly parsing the complexities and vagaries of war. That he does so with surgical precision and artful zest makes this a must-read.” —Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead
“When the history of these times are finally shaken out, and the shredders have all been turned off, we will turn to writers like Phil Klay to finally understand the true nature of who we were, and where we have been, and where we are still going. He slips himself in under the skin of the war with a muscular language and an agile heart and a fair amount of complicated doubt. Redeployment will be one of the great story collections of recent times. Phil Klay is a writer of our times. I can’t wait to see what he does next.” —Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin
“To most, the war in Iraq is a finished chapter in history. Not so to the Marines, family members, and State Department employees in Phil Klay’s electrifying debut collection, Redeployment. Thanks to these provocative and haunting stories, the war will also become viscerally real to readers. Phil Klay is a powerful new voice and Redeployment stands tall with the best war writing of this decade.” —Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men Are Gone
“Redeployment is fiction of a very high order. These are war stories, written with passion and urgency and consummate writerly skill. There’s a clarity here that’s lacerating in its precision and exhilaration in its effect.” —Patrick McGrath, author of Trauma
“These stories are surgically precise strikes to the heart; you can’t read them without recalling other classic takes on war and loss—Conrad, Herr, Hemingway. Klay maps the cast of our recent Middle East conflicts and illuminates its literal, and philosophical center: human casualty.” —Lea Carpenter, author of Eleven Days
“These are gorgeous stories—fierce, intelligent and heartbreaking. Phil Klay, a former Marine, brings us both the news from Iraq and the news from back home. His writing is bold and sure, and full of all sorts of authority—literary, military and just plain human. This is news we need to hear, from a new writer we need to know about.” —Roxana Robinson, author of Sparta
We shot dogs. Not by accident. We did it on purpose and we called it Operation Scooby. I’m a dog person, so I thought about that a lot.
First time was instinct. I hear O’Leary go, “Jesus,” and there’s a skinny brown dog lapping up blood the same way he’d lap up water from a bowl. It wasn’t American blood, but still, there’s that dog, lapping it up. And that’s the last straw, I guess, and then it’s open season on dogs.
At the time you don’t think about it. You’re thinking about who’s in that house, what’s he armed with, how’s he gonna kill you, your buddies. You’re going block by block, fighting with rifles good to 550 meters and you’re killing people at five in a concrete box.
The thinking comes later, when they give you the time. See, it’s not a straight shot back, from war to the Jacksonville mall. When our deployment was up, they put us on TQ, this logistics base out in the desert, let us decompress a bit. I’m not sure what they meant by that. Decompress. We took it to mean jerk off a lot in the showers. Smoke a lot of cigarettes and play a lot of cards. And then they took us to Kuwait and put us on a commercial airliner to go home.
So there you are. You’ve been in a no-shit war zone and then you’re sitting in a plush chair looking up at a little nozzle shooting air conditioning, thinking, what the fuck? You’ve got a rifle between your knees, and so does everyone else. Some Marines got M9 pistols, but they take away your bayonets because you aren’t allowed to have knives on an airplane. Even though you’ve showered, you all look grimy and lean. Everybody’s hollow eyed and their cammies are beat to shit. And you sit there, and close your eyes, and think.
The problem is, your thoughts don’t come out in any kind of straight order. You don’t think, oh, I did A, then B, then C, then D. You try to think about home, then you’re in the torture house. You see the body parts in the locker and the retarded guy in the cage. He squawked like a chicken. His head was shrunk down to a coconut. It takes you awhile to remember Doc saying they’d shot mercury into his skull, and then it still doesn’t make any sense.