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Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  589 ratings  ·  53 reviews
When Lieutenant Matt Gallagher began his blog with the aim of keeping his family and friends apprised of his experiences, he didn’t anticipate that it would resonate far beyond his intended audience. His subjects ranged from mission details to immortality, grim stories about Bon Jovi cassettes mistaken for IEDs, and the daily experiences of the Gravediggers—the code name f ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published March 23rd 2010 by Da Capo Press (first published 2010)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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 ·  589 ratings  ·  53 reviews

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Feb 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
wow, i couldnt disagree with the other review any more. im a huge military buff - Nam vet - and when my brother brought an advanced copy of Kaboom home to me from the bookstore he works at, was excited. Gallagher blew me away. he gets IT - any vet knows what IT is, and Gallagher describes it in all its magical poetry and crudeness. His publisher is marketing this as THE Iraq book and I for one agree - unlike other GWOT memoirs out there (cough ... officer memoirs), this isn't about Gallagher - i ...more
Nicholas Carpenito
Jul 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
As other military folks on here have said, the brilliance of this book is that the Gallagher really conveys the military mindset to the reader. It's not a pile of self righteous garbage, it's not a propaganda book, pro or anti war, and it's not what you would expect a book on war to be. It's the truth, and it's how military folk really act, and how we talk, and how we think.
It has all the depression and heartache that comes from being separated from everyone you've ever known and loved, but yo
May 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
As a staff officer in a combat arms branch of the Army, I really appreciated Gallagher's insights into both of those positions. Kaboom addresses some of the issues that I see in the military, such as the generation gap between junior and senior officers. Aside from those observations, this was a good story about his time in Iraq, and a good perspective of that war for those who only know it through CNN, MSBNC, or Fox news. I think anyone who wants a front-line soldier's perspective on the war sh ...more
Richard Farnsworth
Aug 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
As an IRAQI Freedom vet myself, I identified rather well with this book. An excellent example of what the soldiers who fight our wars go through. I deployed as a Major, so I was a little higher in the food chain than Gallagher was when I served. The book also showed some professional growth from first to last. The first half of the book covered Gallagher's exploits in the Cav when he had a blog going. Were I to have worked with him then, I would have thought he was a typical self-important mille ...more
Jun 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: military
A philosophy major becomes a warrior and his idealism meets or should I say crashes into the stark reality of not only war but bureaucracy as well. Lt G becomes Captain G in his deployment to Iraq. He manages to piss off his battalion commander by blogging and getting national attention in the process. That gets him a transfer out of the unit but he lucks out and is assigned to another infantry unit in another part of Iraq. So now he gets an opportunity to go from a rural COIN area to an urban C ...more
Michael Flanagan
Aug 31, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a rarity for me it as it now belongs to a hand full of books I could not finish. No that’s a tad unfair it was a book I could NOT be bothered finishing. From the outset I found myself wanting to skip pages to see if this book improved and alas it did not.

The title to this book is completely misleading in my opinion, it led me to believe this was going to be another action packed true life story from within the suck. What I got instead is a story best suited to the blog from which t
Mar 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
The quote on the cover of the paperback edition says "As funny as it is harrowing." I found it to be neither.

Gallagher doesn't give even one first hand account of any firefight that turned out to be anything more than a misunderstanding, and we hear of no actual IED attacks…or of any real combat at all. This book documents the tedium and boredom of war and gives you that very experience in reading it.

If you want a war memoir about actual combat experiences, I recommend No True Glory (West), Shoo
Aug 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
Ghallaher provides insight into the war in Iraq from the soldiers perspective. This isn't a glory story, an adventure story, or a political story, it’s a description of the men, the circumstances surrounding their patrols, the ridiculous bureaucratic hoops, and everything else that is associated with America being in Iraq. I loved it for his honesty, for the straight forward comments, and his no-holds-bar approach to telling things as they exist. Want insight into the lives of men who served and ...more
Jan 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Engaging personal story from a LT, later captain in the US Army serving in Iraq/Baghdad.
Scott Sheriff
Jun 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
I really enjoyed the most honest and raw moments....and I appreciated reading the perspective of a junior officer in the field. I was a bit put off by sections which seemed more self-conscious of trying to convey a specific message/point...they seemed to lack the charm and spontaneity of the best sections. It surprised me that there was so little combat or violence, but it was interesting to see how Gallagher's units spent their time trying to undermine the insurgents' efforts. The author can be ...more
J Leonard B
Feb 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recommend
At times poetic. At times brutal. Always honest. Matt Gallagher gives the kind of insight into the day to day running of a counter insurgency unit in Iraq that you will struggle to find elsewhere. I found the book engrossing, funny, harrowing and thoroughly enjoyable. Highly recommended!
Mar 18, 2017 rated it liked it
A 3.5
May 22, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People who have never gone into harm's way for their country.
Interesting perspective from a young company grade officer. He is not completely untalented as a writer, but I must admit I found a lot of his writing to be pretty cliche-ridden and his attitude a bit narcissistic. He seems to me a very representative example of his generation (not a compliment). He does accurately capture Army life downrange, but the "so what" of his tale was mostly lacking. He's a committed lieutenant who didn't want to leave his men. And that is unusual or notable because...? ...more
Steve Woods
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
After 18 months service in Vietnam and Cambodia during the 70's I came to the conclusion that it all meant nothing and the surreal was the currency of normal. Separated from that experience by several continents and several decades reading this personal account of a combat soldier in Iraq smacked of nothing if not deja vu. Nothing changes but that it stays the same and the experience of war by those who actually fight it contains so many consistencies that the term "universal soldier" has a defi ...more
Carter McNeese
Nov 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: See review.
This is a great first person look at what life was like as a junior officer in the Iraq War. As someone of the same generation of Matt Gallagher, I was struck by how the soldiers that he commands (as well as himself) are people. He does not romanticize them, and yet they still come out as heroes, albeit realistic ones.

In striving to tell us the truth about what life was like, Gallagher problematizes the acceptable ideas about Americans military personnel, command structures, and modern urban co
Katherine Tomlinson
Apr 14, 2011 rated it liked it
Gallagher comes to much the same conclusion about the quagmire in Iraq as the author of the vastly superior LIFE IN THE EMERALD CITY, the people at the top have no idea what they’re doing and as a result, American soldiers are put at risk. Much of the story is episodic, and there are elements that will remind audiences of everything from JARHEAD (which it STRONGLY resembles) to GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM. Gallagher maintains an ironic distance from it all that becomes somewhat grating and smirky, but ...more
Katey Schultz
Nov 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
A highly informative, entertaining, concrete look at the Iraq war through one man's eyes. I learned something new about Iraq, Iraqi culture, the US Military, or fighting war, on every page. Gallagher's sense of humor is pervasive--at times subtle, other times self-consciously clever--and always welcome. His knowledge of each individual situation was admirable and fascinating to explore as I read along. Most of all, this book--which began as a blog--does what so many other books that began as blo ...more
Mar 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: junior officers, people looking for a realistic account of modern counterinsurgency
Recommended to Gary by: Abu Muqawama
"More often than not, talking to young women only aggravated my impatience with the inane, while talking to young men only exacerbated my disgust for the soft."
-Veteran Matt Gallagher

Fantastic look inside one cavalry officer's 15 months in Iraq spanning 2007 - 2009. Profane, gritty, in-your-face account that takes you to the action - sometimes on patrol in a column of Strykers, sometimes. regrettably, fashioning PowerPoint slides. An admirable rendition of the life of a junior officer in today
Tom V
Aug 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
"Embracing the suck" should be the title of this little book. Our LT has a lot on his mind, sometimes to the detriment of his good thinking, which has it's downfalls. As a war novel, this is a fine example, because it tells the story in a straight-forward way, but with enough humor that it seems like a storyteller working the crowd. As non-fiction, I was put off by the "aliases." Hell, just call them Sp x or Sgt y. There's enough alphabet to go around.

All in all, as a non-participant, I'm woefu
Mar 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
I'm generally NOT a fan of the stream of consciousness school of writing, and the parts of this book that experiment with it are generally not successful (after the first few entries I skimmed those parts). Also, I really wanted to buy him (actually, his copy editor) a dictionary, since some of his word usages just didn't fit.

On the whole, though, the memoir is a fascinating look at life in a scout unit in Iraq, with all the boredom, bureaucracy, frustration, and--yes--horror that entails.

Evan Maxwell
Jul 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
War IS hell

Now I am beginning to understand Iraq. Gallagher suffers somewhat from his generation's self-obsession but he admits it.

He also walked the walk, talked the talk and lived the life for a full tour, so he earned the right to be angry at the stupidity of this war. Not that the war was any more evil than any other, but the way it was waged was clearly banal and wasteful and tragic.

I emerged from the young captain's book as he did from the war: sobered, saddened and thankful that he surv
John Owen
Nov 16, 2014 rated it liked it
There was a lot of good information here but it seemed a bit long and repetitive although that was the nature of the author's assignment. Still, I don't want to read a book that is repetitive. And I wish the author did not feel compelled to tell us how committed he was an how hard he worked quite so many times. (Although I am sure it is true.)

There was some interesting insight as to just how money is being spent in Iraq and what a waste the whole endeavor is. I have read a lot of books about the
Demi Abromaits
Jul 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Kaboom was written for readers like me, the post-9/11 youth who have in large numbers become politically weary, because (rather than in spite) of our U.S. history education and cultural upbringing. As can be expected of this skeptical audience, I would be unwilling to conjure the words "voice of the generation" for any book except Matt Gallagher's. Wrought with candid contradiction and gallows humor, I laughed and cried my way through this entire read and plan to pass it along to anyone who ever ...more
Nov 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This excellent account of one soldier's experience in Iraq provides the reader with details of the danger, boredom, and absurdity with which the young men and women there had to contend. Without clobbering the reader over the head regarding the politics that landed the soldiers there, Mr. Gallagher gives the reader a clear picture of what it was like to carry out a dangerous and complex mission. Read this book and thank a veteran.
Aug 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Matt has an incredible talent for writing. I expected an interesting war memoir, but this was also a very well-written and insightful narrative. The perspective of a company-grade officer on the ground doing his best as part of the counterinsurgency, while really caring and giving it everything, while at the same time being able to step back and consider the big picture and reflect on the insanity of his situation and the situation in Iraq. At times it is very sad, and very funny.
John Donne
Jan 18, 2016 rated it did not like it
Uninspired. Dull. Poorly written and edited. Swerves wildly from crashingly earnest 'we actioned the objective' militarese to turgid stream of consciousness, and not in an inspired way. "Dispatches", it's not. The good captain's favourite phrase? 'I smirked.'

The book's one saving grace are the soldiers' (and, less successfully, Iraqis') remarks, quoted verbatim. The author doesn't have an entirely tin ear for dialogue, but it's ultimately far too little. Avoid.
Earl Watts
Jan 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Pretty damned good. I remember reading the Doonesbury 'Sandbox' blog while I was in Kandahar in 2009 and would always look for Lt G's submissions. They were smart, literate and entirely spot on regarding the cluelessness of a large number of field grade officers. I am pretty sure that I read blog posts that didn't make it into the book and would love to know if that is in fact the case.
Jul 07, 2012 rated it liked it
The language was quite overblown in places but one of the most realistic descriptions of being messed up and suicidal & trying to find something, anything to hang onto. Ignore the free form language riffs & this is a good read if you are interested in the military experience. He has some salient things to say about the nature of guys who are drawn to the military. ...more
Jul 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
An exciting if somewhat uneven memoir of a soldier's 15 month tour of duty in Iraq. Laced with a saucy mix of barracks humor and moments of sheer terror, Gallagher seems to capture the spirit that prevailed among the soldiers in Iraq just before and just after the election of President Obama. A good read. This will make an excellent movie someday.
Mike O'Brien
May 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical-misc
Taken from a stream of consciousness blog taken during this soldiers deployment to Iraq, the book is a fascinating view of life in an extremely stressful environment where any moment could lead to your death of the death of others.
I wouldn't recommend this book if you are looking for a combat narrative, it's not "Chickenhawk", it's worthy of a read.
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Matt Gallagher is the author of the novels Empire City and Youngblood, a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Esquire, The Paris Review and Wired, among other places. He's also the author of the Iraq war memoir Kaboom and coeditor of, and contributor to, the short fiction collection Fire & Forget: Short Stories from the Long War.


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