Max's Reviews > Fobbit

Fobbit by David Abrams
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's review
Oct 01, 12

did not like it
bookshelves: military
Read from September 15 to 30, 2012

I really anticipated this book because it was advertised as the Catch 22 for the new generation. Since Catch 22 is one of my favorite books, I was really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, I really didn't like it, and it took me some time to figure out why.

On the surface, it's very similar to Joseph Heller's classic. There's a colorful cast of characters that are all straining against the war in their own ways and challenging our perceptions of what war means. The story is written with the same "tongue-in-cheek" voice, and the chapters are even titled after the primary character of that section. For all intents and purposes, it is Catch 22 written for a different war.

One of the things that I really disliked was the way that every single soldier is portrayed as either incompetent or an idiot. From the overweight staff sergeant that cowers under his desk at every loud noise, to the lieutenant who delivers death notices to his soldiers in the shower, to the general who clips his toenails during meetings, everyone is ridiculously horrible at their job. There isn't a single character in the book that is portrayed as professional or competent at their job. I realize that this is part of the humor and that Catch 22 also did this to a certain extent, but it feels like this book took it to a higher and very insulting level.

Part of this is probably due to the fact that it might be "too soon" for this humor to really be effective. Catch 22 was published about a decade after WWII ended, and I read it long after that. Therefore, there was a large time distance between the book and the events that it wrote about. Reading this book, it felt like the Iraqi war is still too fresh to find much humor in IEDs or the deaths of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians.

I think the largest difference between this book and Catch 22, however, is the almost complete lack of dialogue. Joseph Heller's characters were in humorous situations, and they did funny things, but the parts that really made me laugh out loud involved the dialogue between the characters. Here, there is very little of that. There is the occasional senior officer yelling at a junior one, and there's a few places where characters will complain to each other, but there's no real back and forth between the soldiers that puts a smile on your face. A good portion of the book is written in diary entries or e-mails home, and the majority of the rest is internal monologue.

It's obvious that my review of this book is tainted by Catch 22, and since the vast majority of the reviewers really seemed to enjoy it, perhaps I was reading it in the wrong mood. It is a book that I had to struggle to finish, however, and it will probably be donated to the library on my next trip.
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