Escape From Baghdad! by Saad Z. Hossain

I got sent this book by the publisher – it’s coming out in March – and I really can’t recommend it enough. Escape From Baghdad! is kind of the mirror image of any American war movie ever made, mixed in with a healthy dose of secret history and gonzo pulp fantasy – an Apocalypse Now with Djinns, maybe, but from the side of the invaded.

It’s heartbreaking in parts – Hossain does a fantastic job of capturing the horror of the invasion and the bloodied aftermath – but it’s also laugh-out-loud funny, and it does a few things I like very much. One is how it begins (much like Will Wiles’ The Way Inn, which I read recently and also loved), as a realist novel only to take an increasingly bizarre turn to the fantastic. The other is that it uses the tools of pulp fiction to tell something that is political and relevant – which is of course the sort of thing I strive for myself, at least on my better mornings.

Some of it made me think of Jerusalem Poker, and some of it reminded me a little of Angelmaker, but with the whimsy underlined by more heft, perhaps – more heart. But it’s very much its own work. Honestly, I loved it – I really hope it gets the attention it deserves. It’s the perfect antidote to Jarhead or American Sniper, though it’s of course the one book Hollywood is unlikely to ever turn into a movie.

When I finished reading The Teleportation Accident last year, I wanted to stand up and applaud it. I haven’t had the same reaction to a book again until I read this one. If you get a chance, get hold of a copy – it’s worth it.