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Red Birds

3.25  ·  Rating details ·  862 ratings  ·  190 reviews
An American pilot crash lands in the desert, unprepared for any situation that cant be resolved with the After Eight mints in his survival kit. Hallucinating palm trees and dehydrating isnt Major Ellies idea of a good time, but he figures its less of a hassle than another marital spat back home. In a neighbouring refugee camp, Momo has his own problems; his money-making ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 6th 2018 by Bloomsbury (first published 2018)
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Average rating 3.25  · 
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 ·  862 ratings  ·  190 reviews

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May 14, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, kindle
It's probably not a great sign when I started wondering how much I had to read at 42% of the book. Honestly, I learned more about this book just reading every other reader's reviews ranging from 2 to 5 stars.

Personally, I feel like a mixed box of last year's crayons. Pieces of this book worked for me while others didn't. My favorite narrator was Mutt the dog who really just seemed like he was more intelligent and I longed for the moment when he could break free of the humans around him. Usually
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow, this novel is greater than the sum of all of its collective parts, even when those components are spectacular in their own right. Firstly, I wish to address the many reviewers who have labelled this as weird, and just like those kids who were labelled as such throughout my school years, all it really means is different. If different, unique and inspired aren't words that pique your interest and feed your fascination for reading this book then I can't think what would.

Sumptuous and
Jul 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
Ill start with a confession. If I had known before I picked this book up that a large part of it would be narrated by a dog, I probably would not have wanted to read it. I have a poor track record with books narrated by animals. Perhaps especially, as in this book, when the animal concerned turns out to be the most erudite, intelligent and eloquent of the narrators.

Is it a good thing, then, that I did not know this and requested a copy of the book via NetGalley? I find this an almost impossible
Oct 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Mohammad Hanif likes to make fun of things.He has a gift for satire which he used brilliantly in his first,rather controversial book,A Case of Exploding Mangoes.

Red Birds begins well,with Hanif's trademark sarcasm,and after that,it falls flat.I liked the basic idea,a satire on America's recent wars,which rely heavily on aerial bombardment.(Hanif,by the way,was himself trained as pilot though he never saw active service).

Red Birds has been compared to Joseph Heller's Catch 22.Heller was also a
Anum S.
Most of the time, when I dont like a book, reviewing it seems like such a burden. I want to say "Hated it, dont read, and be done with it, but I never thought Id be saying this about a Mohammad Hanif book. And its not just because his other novel, Our Lady of Alice Bhatti, was good, but because he writes nonfiction so well. All of his stuff on NYT and BBC Urdu has always been funny, which was why this book came as a particular shock.

Make no mistake, his commentary is still on-point. When talking
Dec 29, 2018 rated it liked it
When a US pilot, Ellie, crash lands near the refugee camp he was sent to bomb, he is stranded in the hot desert, starving and thirsty. He finds a wounded dog, Mutt, (who is a key character in the book) and eventually the dog and Ellie are 'rescued' by the teenage Momo. Written in alternating POVs between these 3 main characters, the chapters tell a mix of the past and present, the agony and despair of what is left behind when war stops and people are trying to regroup and move on with the weight ...more
Paul Fulcher
Jul 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: net-galley, 2018
One of several disappointments in this year's Man Booker list was the lack of any non UK/Irish and North American voices, a lack that is increasingly becoming a feature of the prize in recent years. One obvious omission was this book, the latest novel by Mohammed Hanif, who was previously longlisted for his debut novel, A Case of Exploding Mangoes, in the deliberately more diverse list chosen by the 2008 jury. Interestingly though the 2008 panel had to call in the novel as it wasn't submitted by ...more
Roman Clodia
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
We are not here to save our national honour, we are not here to save our national anything [...] There can be no victory if I don't take my firstborn home. My son's safety is my victory. That's my entire war plan. That's my ideology. That's my tactics. That's my strategy.

If we crossed Catch-22 with Frankenstein in Baghdad, threw in some Salman Rushdie stylistics and maybe a soupcon of Home Fire, with a smattering of The Girl in Green over the top would Red Birds be the result?

I see other
Alice Lippart
May 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2019
Not my cup of tea.
Jun 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
This book, with it's flashes of brilliance and thorough weirdness is hard for me to rate. It is the kind of book that Booker judges love. Clever, ridiculously funny in parts while it's utter grimness makes it not amusing in the slightest. There is no doubt that the author is a master of metaphor and the writing is engaging, particularly in the beginning and end but I found myself having to re-read parts to figure out whose voice I was reading.

Ellie is a pilot whose plane has come down in the
Surabhi Chatrapathy
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The irony of war for peace or even democracy has struck this world over and over again. The hypocrisy of countries such as America, UK, Russia and France when it comes to wars and conflict in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Latin American countries and African countries is crystal clear to those who are the recieving end of it and those who are witnessing it. But unfortunately it is openly ignored by a large percentage of the population in the countries mentioned above. That is ...more
Will Ansbacher
A surrealist tale seen through the eyes of three characters: US airman Ellie, who crash-lands in the desert, a 15-year-old teenager Momo living in a bombed-out refugee camp, and his dog Mutt. It has some very droll passages as Hanif cleverly intersperses the story of how Ellie is brought into Momos family compound with the cognitive dissonance of two uncomprehending cultures.

Momo sees himself as a businessman (his source material is a Fortune 500 article about the importance of a businesss
This was a weird tale of a pilot who ejects into the desert and after eight days of wandering in a desert is (mostly) rescued by a dog called Mutt and a 15 yo go-getter from the local refugee camp. It is a nameless country, the camp is located next to an abandoned hangar left by the US, there is a USAID worker researching for the sake of researching, lost sons taken by the US, metaphors on metaphors, ghosts, a dog that is smarter than the humans, a father once employed by the US who faithfully ...more
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Published in Newsline Magazine in December 2018

When it comes to literary styles, satire and surrealism seem best-suited to match the illogicality of war and its aftermath, as the works of Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller can attest to. The inherent absurdity of war is perhaps even more heightened today, with global modern warfares reliance on remote-controlled drone technology which has transformed the relationship between soldiers and civilians into aerial bombers and dots on a grainy screen.
Dec 18, 2019 rated it liked it
The novel, basically zoning in on the absurdity and ugliness of war, posing a thriller satire on US foreign policy is narrated mostly by a teenage refugee Momo and a philosophical dog Mutt (the dog part was much better, as he views the stupidity and fatality of human behavior). I have to say that I was really hooked for most part of the novel, where Major Ellie, a US fighter pilot has crash-landed in the desert in an unnamed country, and after eight days of starving and meaninglessly wandering ...more
Marwa Shafique
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
"It's only Momo who cares about me. And really, you are lucky if you have one person in your life who does. When in pain, ask yourself who cares about you. And if you can think of one person, that pain is worth living through."

You know it's a good book when you stay up till 4 AM reading it, your eyes barely leaving the page - taking in everything the book has to offer.

Red Birds is a book that circles around war and it's aftermath; how people respond to it, how people adapt to it. In a world
Asha Seth
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
What are humans if not a sum of their memories?
One heart-wrenching loss. One intellectual dog. Many tormented humans. And we have what can be termed as the ultimate mess in Hanif's head - Red Birds.
US Pilot Major Ellie is on a mission to blow out a 'fugee' camp but for some goddamned reason his plane crashes and he lands in the desert, starved for several days, almost killed, until rescued by Momo.
Momo will make any end meet to have his Brother Ali back, sent to the hangar with the hope
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
Although I found this novel clever, original and thought-provoking, it didnt quite work for me, mainly because the author seems to be trying too hard and the result is a satire, which although pertinent is too heavy-handed with too didactic a tone. Its the story of a US Air Force pilot (confusingly called Ellie, it took me a while to work it he was male) who crash lands near the very refugee camp he had been sent out to bomb. He is discovered in the desert by the teenage Momo, whose life isnt ...more
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Red Birds was disappointing to me. It's a satire about America and a metaphor for the uselessness of war. I don't like satires very much, so I had a hard time connecting with this story. It's also confusing and has a weird pace. This one didn't work for me. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
Syazwanie Winston Abdullah
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 13, 2018 rated it liked it
War is Hellerish.

Few and far between are the war novels written since Catch-22 that dont reveal something of its influence. The opening scene of Red Birds in which Major Ellie has crash landed his plane in the desert and compares the $65m cost of the F15 to his meagre survival rations of four energy biscuits, two vitamin smoothies, a roll of surgical cotton, a roll of surgical gauze, a needle and thread is pure Heller. Nevertheless, Hanifs point about the absurdity of war is well made. Equally,
Muhammad Arif
Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely remarkable book. The most intriguing point of the book is the use of animal as the most reliable narrator in the story. Perhaps a second reading of the book will unravel some of the puzzles, the fleeting moments, the moral enigmas, and the stream of consciousness of the characters. One of the best books!
Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction-asia
See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits

I hadn't read any of Mohammed Hanif's writing before so went into Red Birds with no preconceptions and absolutely loved every page of this novel. The story is told mostly through three points of view (although others join in the later stages): American pilot, Major Ellie; local teenager, Momo; and Momo's dog, Mutt. Don't be put off by the idea of a talking dog. Mutt's humour did remind me a little of Manchee in The Knife Of Never Letting Go
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this book. I expected to like this book, and did so at the start. Eventually, some 180 pages in, I found I could no longer turn the pages to find out how this story of Ellie, the American pilot who crashes in the desert, teenager Momo who lives in a refugee camp, and Momo's dog, the most intelligent of the three, pannned out. The book has a strange, disconnected feel to it which I enjoyed at first, but in the end I .... just gave up.
Saniya Ahmad
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
I guess maybe I expected more from this but it was too haphazard at times and the same circumstances were narrated by 3 different people in 3 subsequent chapters. Felt very repetitive at times. However it explained brilliantly the effects of war-affected areas.
2.5 stars ⭐⭐💫
This was a blind pick a fellow book club member made, and I'll be honest in saying that I'm not entirely sure what I just read, but I'm glad I read it lol. Equal parts anti-war satire, social criticism, musings on dealing with family and grief, then ending with a fever-dream of revelations...this book was indeed weird, but I like weird books! I think my main struggle with Red Birds was that it lacked cohesiveness and clarity. There were many times, particularly towards the end, that
Momin Ashraf
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
In a ramshackled, war-torn region a US pilot, Major Ellie has crash landed and is now lost in an eternal desert battling thirst, hunger and delirium until Mutt, a philosophical dog, chances upon Ellie, and Momo, a teenage boy with a razor-sharp tongue and swagger whose brother "Bro Ali" (kudos to Hanif's ingenuity) has mysteriously disappeared, presumably sold to the US military personnel, arrives at the scene looking for his beloved pet and finds/rescues the poor pilot. Major Ellie manages to ...more
Aakanksha Mishra
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Red birds by Mohammed Hanif is a satire set in the times of war. It is impressive how the author has managed to make fun of tragic situations. This book is a wonderful satire on the condition of refugee camps where a Muslim family is in focus. A US pilot is sent to bomb a refugee camp and he ends up taking refuge in their home instead.

The book starts with the narration of a US Pilot who has crash-landed in a desert and trying really hard to survive on 4 energy biscuits and vitamin smoothies.
Pavitra (For The Love of Fictional Worlds)

Disclaimer: A physical copy was provided via Bloomsbury India as part of the Instagram Blog Tour. The Thoughts, opinions & feelings expressed in the review are therefore, my own.

Red Birds is a satirical view of the life of human beings who are so casually called the collateral damage people who just want a solid roof over their head, good food just beyond survival, and safety of the people they love people with lives who want to be more than the just a number on a list.  

It is the
Jayasree B
Mar 14, 2019 rated it liked it
One would think this book is a bleak read, with it's refugee camps and situations. But instead it gives a satirical view about the entire situation. And Mutt! probably the reason why I give this a three star rating is because of Mutt.
A good effort by the author, and a good read, though it may not cater to most readers.

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Mohammed Hanif is a Pakistani writer and journalist. He was born at Okara. He was graduated from Pakistan Air Force Academy as a pilot officer but subsequently left to pursue a career in journalism. He initially worked for Newsline, The Washington Post and India Today. In 1996, he moved to London to work for the BBC. Later, he became the head of the BBC's Urdu service in London.


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