...original, deftly plotted and incisively intelligent ... Mr. Van Reet occupies these sparring perspectives with impressive balance and dispassion, avoiding the sense of victimhood that often saturates fiction about American soldiers in Iraq. Though the novel offers no pat resolutions, a strange and surprising connection emerges between captive and captors.
The war fiction writer is in a tough place; you have to get your reader to know some military procedures and technology without bogging down the story. Mr. Van Reet, who served as a tank crewman in Iraq, does an incredible job of doing this while keeping the story and characters top priority ... It is amazing how much depth and history is covered within such a dizzy pace. Everyone has a say, including a Somali cabdriver and three Iraqi stray dogs. In a history book, the ideologies would feel static. Mr. Van Reet shows them as they truly exist: ambiguous, in constant flux, tried by events ... Good writers such as Mr. Van Reet, who can bring together all the viewpoints, help us think better about these events, especially as they get solidified in history and overtaken by more recent events, ideologies and actors.
...one of the best opening chapters I’ve read for ages...The strengths of this excellent book are all on show in these tight 15 pages: the vivid observation, the nuance of its characters, the deep familiarity with the processes of waging war ... Van Reet doesn’t flinch from skewering the invasion’s cruelty and ineptitude, but his ambition goes beyond presenting us with only the US experience. The story gives us three perspectives on the unfolding action ... It feels intellectually responsible for Van Reet to push beyond the world he knows to give us a larger perspective on the war, but al-Hool is an empathic stretch for the author and there is more obvious contrivance about this section of the book ... It may not be news that war is hell, but our chronic forgetfulness of the fact makes Spoils feel not only rewarding but necessary.