“This vivid debut from a former soldier, about the capture of Marines by an Islamist militia, explores the valour, horror and absurdity of conflict. It may not be news that war is hell, but our chronic forgetfulness of the fact makes Spoils feel not only rewarding but necessary.”
Featured in The Guardian’s Best Fiction Books of 2017.
Spoils is set in that most controversial of times and places – April 2003 and the American occupation of Iraq. Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, is now in American hands. The occupation forces have a different set of orders now; they have to win over the minds and hearts of the Iraqi people. However, no one recognizes that this is a point of no return. Instead, blunders following miscalculations following more blunders provide fertile grounds for an insurgency that wants to ensure that Iraq doesn’t recover to become an empire again.
Brian Van Reet uses breathtaking and dynamic prose to delve into the lives of people on both sides of the battle lines. Nineteen years old and an American Humvee gunner, Cassandra is taken captive in the middle of a lethal firefight and wakes up to find herself in a prison cell. There is Abu al-Hool who has spent his entire life as a mujahedeen and now experiences a crisis of conscience. His enemies are within and without as he also has to deal with a new wave of jihadists who are far more radicalized. Then there is tank crewman Specialist Sleed who decides to go along with a crime that is supposed to be victimless but has unimaginable and horrifying consequences.
Spoils details a war that is going out of control and doing so fast. It doesn’t spare anyone and showcases complex issues of morality while telling the tale of combat and its human cost, a trait which means that it will emerge as a modern literary classic.