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Escape from Baghdad!

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  361 ratings  ·  78 reviews
Welcome to Baghdad during the US invasion. A desperate American military has created a power vacuum that needs to be filled. Religious fanatics, mercenaries, occultists, and soldiers are all vying for power. So how do regular folks try to get by?

If you're Dagr and Kinza, a former economics professor and a streetwise hoodlum, you turn to dealing in the black market. But
Paperback, 304 pages
Published March 17th 2015 by The Unnamed Press (first published 2012)
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really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
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Jun 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Read this. Read it now. It makes me envious, determined to write another book. It would also be a spectacular movie if someone only had the balls for it. Telling, comic, violent, appalling, realist, magical, deranged, bleak, superb. If Jeanette Winterson and Hunter Thompson got high, got kidnapped by ISIL, lived in a warzone for a few years and escaped with the aid of a very angry Umberto Eco, and then wrote about it, you might get something like this.

Book Riot Community
I loved this book an unreasonable amount! Two black marketeer friends in Baghdad (one a former professor and the other a career criminal) come into possession of one of the area’s notorious torturers. While trying to decide what to do with him – kill him? sell him to his enemies? set him free? – he proposes a different plan: He has a map that will lead them to a stash of gold, which he will share with his captors, in exchange for his life. They agree, because mad cash, yo. On their journey to ...more
Aug 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What. Did I. Just. Read.

Try and figure it out from my notes. Then come back and tell me. Please?

~ The following exchange offers a good glimpse of the book (and a running gag):

“SFU intelligence indicates that the JAM are desperate to get their hands on Hamid. They think he carries valuable information,” Fowler tapped his nose. “(...) Valuable information, Hoffman. This man Hamid was with all the high ups of the old regime. This could be it, Hoffman. This could be our golden goose.”
“The big fish,
Feb 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, middle-east
I read Lavie Tidhar's post about this book, and got a copy for myself. I'm very glad I did. EFB is one of those wonderfully unclassifiable books that I love. (So many books are described as 'famous title meets famous title'.) The only book that came to mind after reading this was Alif the Unseen by G Willow Wilson, and that's just because they both had middle eastern fantasy elements. Escape from Baghdad is grittier than Ms. Wilson's novel however.

Anyway, a great read. It captures a part of the
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, supernatural
‘Escape from Baghdad’ is another book that I have no memory of deciding to read, yet enjoyed a lot. I often forget how or where I found out about a book, because it doesn’t take much to intrigue me. I’ve read novels just because they had a nice cover and make no apologies for it. Anyway, here we have a gruesome dark comedy of the second Iraq War with shades of Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America, and the New Face of American War (one of my favourite books) and Buffalo Soldiers ...more
Saba Imtiaz
Oct 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
There is an all-consuming, almost feral quality to Escape from Baghdad, one that lends itself almost perfectly to its setting. After all, this is a novel set in a post-invasion Baghdad where — almost like a tableau — a war is being played out between a loose nexus of militias, remnants of the Baathist regime and the United States’ forces.
Saad Z. Hossain’s debut novel navigates these actors and acts spectacularly. . Escape from Baghdad! is one of those wondrous books that will appeal to readers
David Yoon
Feb 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Dagr is a former economics professor and Kinza is a street thug who have captured Saddam Hussein’s head torturer who teases a hidden bunker in Mosul filled with riches. Set during the American occupation of Iraq, the promise of riches sets this trio on a path that leads them to blood-soaked mayhem, ancient cults, mythical forces and an American soldier that’s either insanely brilliant or patently idiotic.

This is a country sitting on millennia of history that has shaped it well before American
David Agranoff
This is a novel about a subject and setting overdue for exploration in genre novels. The Iraq war has rarely been a topic in sci-fi or horror. The best example I can think of is John Shirley's Constantine tie-in novel Warlord. I have been waiting for someone to tackle the GW Bush lead Iraq invasion in genre fiction for awhile. EFB is set in the chaos about a year after the march 2003 invasion of the country looking for the phantom menace of Weapons of Mass Destruction. This sets a stage for a ...more
Aug 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book is really trying to be clever and referential but it just fell flat for me and it doesn't really start improving untill too late in the plot.
The Druze references made me uncomfortable, tbh, I feel like if they were looking for an obscure to Iraq(and the author and audience anyways) culture for a relic to base the magical realistic aspects of the story on they easily could have used a dead culture or religion instead of one that is still around and practiced.

The most curious thing to me
Feb 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is such a good book. With characters as iconic and idiosyncratic as any in Catch 22 and MASH . It's action-packed, compelling, weird, funny, and it provides a completely new view of the US invasion of Iraq. I highly recommend it.
Nate D
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: a spark of life amidst turmoil
Recommended to Nate D by: modern Djinn
Shelves: sci-fi, mena, read-in-2018
I've been reading some pretty good pulp lately, and here's another notable, if imperfect example. Notable for the sheer breathless frenzy of the plotting, which seems apt for a book set in amid the maelstrom of U.S.-destabilized Gulf War 2.0 Baghdad circa George W. Bush's second term or so, where life attempts to creep on against constant violence and loss. Drugged out paranoid American soldiers hunting for mythic WMDs, secretive ancient powers in search of much realer mythic artifacts from the ...more
K.J. Charles
Okay, this was amazing. Kind of a gonzo novel set in post-collapse Iraq, with gunmen on the streets, the US military charging about, and everything gone to shit. Dagr is an ex university professor turned arms dealer with his friend Kinza, who has basically slipped several gears entirely. They team up with an ex torturer of Saddam's guard and an idiot savant drugged up US soldier in a kind of flailing search for treasure. Only not. This is not a very summarisable book tbh.

It's brutal (the
Hoo boy. This is a heck of a ride through occupied Baghdad, following the fortunes of black-marketers Dagr and Kinza. Every description I've read says this book is about their acquisition of a known torturer for Saddam, Captain Hamid--but actually the story turns very quickly to other matters and Hamid simply becomes a grudging third member of their party. Hamid promises them access to hidden treasure, but that search only takes them through a few pages before they're diverted into the pursuit ...more
Jun 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent writing and "world building"...

even though the "world" is essentially ours. this is the story of 3-7 characters through whose eyes we see the current political/economic/war situation in Iraq, but really through the corners of their eyes when it's not misted over with blood. don't be surprised if you start rooting for the most bloodthirsty of them all: I did! in the words of a dear friend, this is a great story about a bunch of men blowing shit up and going on a magical quest. it's also
Oct 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I love that this book starts out as an interesting and darkly hilarious book about mercenaries trying to leave Baghdad and moves into a centuries-old conspiracy and the quest to uncover it. There are so many good one-liners in here, just thrown into the plot, and characters who you can get behind, even though they aren't the kind of people you'd normally want to root for.
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Thanks to Goodreads and the author for giving me this book. This action/fantasy book was a quick read - at times it was hard to put this book down. I particularly liked the glossary at the end of the book.
Stig Edvartsen
May 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: male-author

This book is a perfect script for the Cohen brothers. More quirk than you can shade an idiosyncratic stick at.
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Holy crap that was fun!
Daniel Hicklin
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
Enjoyable characters but genre and rushed plot wasn’t for me.
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, supernatural, war
One of my top three novels of the past few years and possibly ever. Just nonstop insanity and delightful writing and characters. There is nothing Hossain and this novel do not do well. Just get it right now and dive in!
Apr 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommended to Raj by: Sachahaworth
Shelves: fantasy, military-sf
Dagr and Kinza are two very different people, thrown together in the mayhem that is post-invasion Baghdad. Dagr is a professor of economics while Kinza is a low-life. Losing everything from their old lives, they get along now selling small scale arms they get from an American soldier, Hoffman. Then fate drops Hamid, a senior member of the Saddam regime, into their laps and the two some decide to try to get out of Baghdad to Mosul, where Hamid claims is a hidden treasure.

This is an odd book. Part
Jun 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I haven't stayed up until 2:30am to finish a book in a *long* time. Escape from Baghdad is darkly hilarious, horrifying, grim, honest, tragic, beautiful, and fast. It should be made into a movie, but I could never watch a movie with this level of brutality. (Lots of people would, though!) Dagr, the primary point of view character and a retired economist now involved in the black market, pulled it all together for me. He's as close to an innocent as we're going to get in this story. He sees and ...more
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I usually don't read a book and think "this would make a good movie" but wow, would this have made a good movie. I've rarely read action that was so well written. I found myself liking the characters a lot more than I thought I would have, considering they tended to be either amoral, psychotically crazy, or both. There was just enough threads of humour to keep this book from being too bleak or otherwise unreadable (after all, I'm not very fond of torture). Overall, really enjoyable.
Counting as my book set in the Middle East for the Book Riot Read Harder challenge.
Almost a 4-star, but there just wasn't enough character development for me. Another Goodreads user commented that this would make a great Cohen Bros movie. I completely agree.
Hamid Harasani
Aug 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: literature
This book started off well and kept on getting worse as I read on. It's shame because I felt that it had great potential.
Carolyn Fitzpatrick
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: general-fiction
Not a bad book. It is well written, with bizarre yet vaguely believable characters and crazy plot twists. But - I just didn't like it. One of the reviews on the back says that this book is reminiscent of Catch-22 and the original MASH book, and I heartily agree. The overall tone is nihilism, dark humor, and a combination of despair and exhilaration. The world of these characters is so fucked up that logic and morality no longer have any practical meaning. While some of the characters at least ...more
Kee Onn
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
In the tough and unpredictable times of besieged Iraq, an unlikely team of former economics professor Dagr and arms dealer Kinza stumbled upon one of Saddam Hussein's former general, Captain Hamid. He makes an offer to the duo promising a vault full of gold if they safely escort him to Mosul, and thus begins their action-packed adventure. As they hopped from town to town, an even larger plot unravels, consisting of invincible thugs, ancient artifacts and traces of the mysterious, secretive tribe ...more
Kathy Brown
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5, but rounding up. Ambitious book that doesn't always stick the landing. Trigger warnings : ultra violent, most character lack much nuance. Third person pov, from multiple characters. Setting : Baghdad, post American invasion. 3 guys trying to get to Mosel for treasure hunt. Everything goes poorly. This story revolves around sci-fi-ish, speculative elements, but so grounded in the gritty details of geopolitical struggle, you'd barely notice anything odd is going on. Tone : Catch-22 and the ...more
Jun 07, 2017 rated it liked it
An ex-professor and a weapons dealer stumble upon ancient alchemist secrets as they try to smuggle a prisoner out of U.S.-occupied Baghdad. This feels like it wants to be Catch-22 in Iraq with fantasy elements, which is a fantastic premise that I can totally get behind, but it doesn’t integrate the humor and the serious parts nearly as well as Catch-22 does, with the result that the tone is a bit schizophrenic, jumping around between war-is-horrible scenes and silly nonsense as if the book isn’t ...more
Feb 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Book #4 completed for Book Riot Challenge 2020: "Read a historical fiction novel not set in WWII"
Everything pointed to this as a book I would have no interest in. War, mystery, action. But the thing is, I loved it. Every minute. The characters are rich, dark, complicated and wonderfully challenging. The humor is placed at the perfect moments, so it doesn't get too deep and depressing. The journey of Kinza and Dagr, unlikely heroes and friends, was so thoroughly enjoyable. I need more.
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