brian van reet’s ‘spoils’ moves fiction about the iraq war into new territory

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the canon of veteran literature from the forever wars has expanded beyond the swell of male memoir and americentric combat fiction. it’s been more than a decade since brian van reet rolled into baghdad as a tank crewman for the second invasion of iraq, and he’s had time to think about it. “spoils,” his debut novel, speaks in tongues, all foreign to the setting, each character a volunteer about to be betrayed by soldiering. it’s a book of inescapable vows and unintended consequences.(lee boudreaux)the story, though mostly based in iraq, is nearly absent of iraqis. the players have all come from the outside. we alternate between three narrators and pivot on a single ambush near baghdad early in the war. time leaps between moments leading to this attack or to events resulting from it, everyone scarred or doomed by involvement.we begin with cassandra. “she is the most dangerous thing around. the best soldiers are like her, just on the far side of childhood. their exact reasons for fighting don’t matter much.” she’s a machine-gunner in a humvee with sgt. mcginnis, a cautious professional, and crump, a stereotypical punk. despite her bravery, she’s wounded, and they...

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