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Review: Redeployment by Phil Klay

Reviewed by Haania Amir

Redeployment is an assault on the senses. A compilation of short stories, each with a different protagonist, Philip Klay’s debut novel produces a stream-of-consciousness narrative that is breath-taking in its brevity.

Whether it is through a lack of direct speech or an incessant litany of technical jargon, the novel excels at capturing both a nationalist emotion, and an anti-war sentiment. Reading this, I wasn’t sure what to expect besides the mental trauma that is an inherent part of writing that deals with war. However, Klay manages to reverse the stereotype by providing a host of characters who have been in the field, at desk jobs, and even in the chapel. I felt that this was a brilliant and truthful representation of the life of the Marines— particularly because popular culture sometimes fails to acknowledge the artillery-men, the chaplains, and the pothole fillers.

The novel provides contrasting views about war. One the one side, it is the War on Terror in Iraq— a country known for its volatile nature. Here, some characters seemingly attempt to justify the reasoning behind the anger towards the six-year old brainwashed Iraqi boy planting an IED; on the other side is Zara, the Muslim convert who, in her Islamic garb, is likened to a Marine in his uniform. Nuanced writing such as this is hard to come by.

My advice to you is this— when reading Redeployment, there are a few things you must remember:
1) ‘Other than war, punishment is the most dramatic manifestation of power.’ (Klay)
2) These men follow orders.
3) The Marines calling istaqlal ‘istalqaal’ due to perceived Western ignorance is unsurprising.
4) Trying to understand the effects of war on anyone is an endless task. Don’t expect satiety.

And, finally:
5) Words are precious, but not always enough.

Phil Klay has produced an emotional read that left me shocked, relieved, disappointed, thrilled and restless for more.