The eleven stories in Will Mackin’s debut collection draw from his many deployments with a special operations task force in Iraq and Afghanistan. Together, the stories in Bring Out the Dog offer a portrait of the absurdity and poetry that define life in the most elite, clandestine circles of modern warfare. It is a world of intense bonds, ancient credos, and surprising compassion—of success, failure, and their elusive definitions.
Will Mackin’s Bring Out the Dog is one such collection that cuts through all the shiny and hyped-up rhetoric of wartime, and aggressively and masterfully draws a picture of the brutal, frightening, and even boring moments of deployment ... The authenticity screams from the pages, with details like how the rained smelled like feces and what blood sounds like dripping off of an elbow onto stone ... Mackin’s prose hits every note with accuracy, penning sentences that examine the wonder of the surroundings while also underscoring how alert one must be on these missions ... It peels away the hardened layers and shines a spotlight on the vulnerability of every one of them ... Mackin’s stories feel present and wholly realized ... There is no tidying up of the shameful and disgusting acts that are carried out in war, but with this unflinching honesty comes an unguarded look at the resilience of mankind, and the opportunity to improve.
Will Mackin has produced something that holds up alongside the very best war literature of the 21st century ... These stories are powerful portraits of men at war, capturing the desperate passion and brutal absurdity of the battlefield. They are filled with grit and honesty, unflinching in their warts-and-all approach to narrative ... Every single one of these stories sings ... every story—really, every SENTENCE—is impressive and impactful ... It’s a meditation on the many forms that grief can take and the many causes it can have. It encapsulates beautifully the combination of pathos and dark humor that flows through every one of these exquisite 11 ... Mackin’s prose displays a deftness that belies its basic muscularity; it’s an ideal mix in terms of presenting these stories with the ring of genuine truth ... a brilliant debut.
...there is a hard, clear surface to the events in these stories, which often come off like reporting or arc-less episodes that elude interpretation ... Mackin’s stories often open up into brief, flashing moments of strangeness and wonder ... the reader is struck simultaneously by the human connection and the lack of it ... Bring Out the Dog is a strikingly original debut, and Mackin’s predecessors, if any, are Tim O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato and Donald Barthelme’s 'The Sargeant' ... all three of these writers are remarkable for their uncanniness and originality. For their brilliance, as well.