Klay succeeds brilliantly, capturing 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 for the human condition in extremis … Each story calls forth a different dilemma or difficult moment, nearly all of them rendered with an exactitude that conveys precisely the push-me pull-you feelings the war evoked: pride, pity, elation and disgust, often pulsing through the same character simultaneously … Klay has a nearly perfect ear for the language of the grunts — the cursing, the cadence, the mixing of humor and hopelessness. They are among the best passages in the book, which, unfortunately, are unfit for a family newspaper.
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 … The tales in Redeployment demonstrate a keen awareness of language and storytelling craft. Mr. Klay has a radar-sharp ear for how soldiers talk — a potent mix of bravado, sarcastic humor, macho posturing and military jargon — and he’s adept, too, at delineating the deeper emotions that lie beneath the swagger … The stories in Redeployment are told in the first person, but from a variety of points of view, coming together to create a kind of choral portrait of the war.
In these dozen stories, Klay draws from his own experience as a U.S. Marine captain to give us one of the most compelling depictions to date of the Iraq war, and especially of the psychic toll it continues to exact on those who fought in it … Although they hail from different generations and fought in different battles, O’Brien and Klay share a burden that the fiction-writing chroniclers of World War II didn’t have to endure: serious doubts about the legitimacy of their war’s underlying casus belli … Klay’s graphic but concise depictions of firefights and IED attacks are terrifically tense. His ear for the poetically profane language of gun-toting grunts, high on adrenaline and their government’s permission to take out the bad guys, is unerring.
...a stingingly sharp short story collection that itself addresses the gap between the American soldiers who've fought in Iraq and those of us back home … Klay quite pointedly doesn't offer a big vision, only a mosaic of smaller ones. In fact, what makes him so good is the way he can carry us from the battlefield to the strip bar, from the funny to the harrowing to the heartbreaking … Redeployment is so wonderfully written, it's a pleasure to read. Yet it's hard not to be saddened by what an ill-conceived mess the war in Iraq proved to be. After so much money and sacrifice, you'd hope to wind up with stories happier than the ones Klay tells us.
Throughout Redeployment, Mr. Klay juxtaposes the frenetic disorder of combat with the drawn-out bewilderment of civilian life … Mr. Klay's soldiers and veterans are preoccupied with storytelling, or at least with figuring out how to authentically convey their own exploits to people who weren't there. Despite their ‘Oo-rah!’ tough-talk—which they usually admit is an affectation—these are sensitive, introspective figures … ‘Prayer in the Furnace,’ the book's longest and most engrossing story, cuts to the hopeless difficulty of trying to distinguish Iraqi enemy combatants, whom soldiers are supposed to kill, from Iraqi civilians, whom they are supposed to protect … Mr. Klay gives a deeply disquieting view of a generation of soldiers reared on war's most terrible contradictions.
If these characters come home, they don’t stay for long … The anxiety that hums through Klay’s prose mirrors the state of American security, post-September 11. Security wonks call it ‘new normal’—a hundred small wars running concurrently, rather than a big one every other generation … Can narrative organize this disorganized ‘new normal’? Klay’s Marines swap stories when dead-drunk, as in ‘Unless It’s A Sucking Chest Wound,’ tearing off scabs in their unresolved lives; they relate them to clueless civilians, who seek to coopt them for political ends, as in ‘War Stories.’
Redeployment is the real thing – a vivid and vital battery of war stories that does not rely solely on its subject matter for impact (although, make no mistake, the subject certainly has impact) … Klay's gifts become more apparent with each new narrator and circumstance: his reach, his tonal control, his observational sophistication, the sheer emotional torque of his narratives. By the end, he had convincingly inhabited more than a dozen different voices and I felt I had learned more about Iraq than in any documentary or factual account … The thing that impressed me most, though, was Klay's behind-the-scenes skill with language. For the most part, the stories are planed and worked in that meticulous American manner.
The best literary work thus far written by a veteran of America’s recent wars is Phil Klay’s Redeployment, a masterly collection of short stories about war and its psychological consequences … His fiction is extremely funny and absolutely serious, his control over language and character so assured that the array of first-person narrators in these dozen stories—combat grunts, a desk-bound officer, a beleaguered State Department official, a Marine chaplain—are all distinct and persuasive. Klay writes with a powerful restraint about the inversion of normal reality called combat, its permanent effects on bodies and souls, but the best stories in Redeployment look at war from a slight distance.
These stories — caked in dust and sweat, stinking of death and bureaucratic rot — are not moral, but they are driven to parse out morality's place during wartime … There is humanity here, as in ‘After Action Report,’ when one soldier takes responsibility for the (justifiable) shooting of a teenage Iraqi so his friend won't have to. There are questions of guilt here, as in ‘Psychological Operations,’ where a soldier questions the honor in taunting men literally to death. There is also sharp writing here, as in ‘FRAGO,’ in which Klay strings together military jargon into a rat-a-tat rhythm that amps up tension while insulating the reader from the violence that's about to ensue … Klay knows how to tell a true war story, because he knows the truth about war stories.
Phil Klay comes as close as possible to relating the emotions of various people before, during and after the war in Iraq. The depth of his perceptions and clarity of his observations are remarkable … Mr. Klay has a straightforward, no-frills style. He expresses himself with a young man’s energy that directly and immediately pulls the reader into his narratives. It would be impossible to remain detached and just sit back and admire his skill as a writer. These stories are felt like shrapnel in the gut.
Klay, who served in Iraq, provides disparate pictures of soldiers’ lives through distinct first-person narrators. He bridges the disconnect between soldiers and civilians, the sense that for most of us, the war was something ‘over there’ … Taken all at once, Redeployment is relentlessly dispiriting...but in giving voice to soldiers, Redeployment exudes power. Unlike the former soldier narrating ‘Psychological Operations,’ who tells a war story and thinks ‘that the story hadn’t been enough, that something was missing and neither of us knew how to find it,’ Klay transfers some of the burden of war on us. He makes us understand what many of us have easily ignored.
A sharp set of stories, the author's debut, about U.S. soldiers in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and their aftermaths, with violence and gallows humor dealt out in equal measure … Klay’s grasp of bureaucracy and bitter irony here rivals Joseph Heller and George Orwell. The narrators sound oddly similar throughout the book, as if the military snapped everybody into one world-wise voice. But it does make the book feel unusually cohesive for a debut collection. A no-nonsense and informed reckoning with combat.