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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 19 January 2014
For me, the best books about war are either deeply tragic or deeply funny. Birdsong, All Quiet on the Western Front, Schindler's List - can move you to tears and leave you feeling the horrors of battle, of victims, of the waste.

On the flip side, Catch 22, Slaughterhouse Five and now Fobbit all show us the absurdities of war, as well as the atrocities. You feel that you are granted the right to laugh, but it doesn't make the situation itself any less tragic.

Fobbit is great. I really liked Catch-22 and as I was reading, felt this could be called the modern equivalent. We have several narrators, each with their own take on the Iraq conflict. The Fobbit of the title is Gooding, a desk jockey. Fobbits are thus called because, like Hobbits, they keep their heads down in their Hobbit/Fobbit holes in Headquarters, doing paperwork in Forward Operating Base (FOB) and not venturing out into the field, earning condemnation from their battle-hardened fellows. Gooding writes press releases after soldiers are killed. He wants to keep his head down and get back home.

As does Abe Shrinkle - out in the field but a terrible company commander. Shrinkle hoards care packages and is an accident waiting to happen. No respect, no leadership ability.

Other narrators tell their stories, in the field, in the relative safety of the FOB, adding to the picture of barely disguised, organised chaos and PR trickery.

It should be a tragic tale but is frequently laugh-out-loud funny and very well composed. I loved Abrams' witty use of language and character to convey the vivid impression of the Fobbits in their air-conditioned trailers and the 'grunts' out in the field, as well as the piranha-like media constantly after an appetising story of death and destruction.

Definitely should be considered as part of the canon of blackly humorous modern war novels.
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VINE VOICEon 12 April 2013
I have just finished reading 'Fobbit' and I could easily write paragraphs enthusing about how good it is. About the characters and situations, the fact that it both hilarious and tragically brutal. For many readers it will be enough to compare it to 'Catch-22', like that classic it explores the absurdities of war, but I found this much easier to read. Anyone who has been in the forces will recognise these characters, within these pages they become flesh and blood, real people and not caricatures. The narrative is compelling and I definitely found it hard to put down. It made me laugh but there were moments when it brought me close to tears. I could write paragraphs, but this is a rare occasion when I just want to say 'read this book', it will give you an insight into what serving in a modern war zone is like, it certainly did that for me.
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on 12 June 2014
This is a darkly comic book about the sanitized side of life on a US Forward Operating Base in Iraq - 'in the war, but not of the war'. Staff Sergeant Chance Gooding Jr - a Public Affairs Fobbit with his 'pale, gooey center' - tries not to go mad as he renders into corporate-speak the horrors taking place on the other side of the wire. There are some obvious parallels between Gooding and Catch 22's Yossarian, although there is also one crucial difference: the former doesn't run the risk of a grisly demise every time he gets up in the morning. Like all the Fobbits, Gooding is all about keeping his head down - an inglorious, undignified position which makes for a pretty decent satire.
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on 3 August 2014
I was really looking forward to this book.
It largely gives the view of the war from the point of the various logistics, operational and support personnel who pass their entire tour in Iraq within the confines of a Forward Operating Base (thus, they are FOBbits). There is a great deal of humour in the terrified existence of these people, who live in terror of ever being ordered to leave the safety of the heavily defended FOB. Unfortunately, this sometimes descends in farce and outright parody, without the finesse of Catch 22 (with which this book is often compared).
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on 17 June 2013
I quite enjoyed this book but it did not help itself by referencing Catch 22 (and by implication comparing itself to that book). It is not anywhere near as good as that book and in particular the ending seems to me to be a complete cop-out. Overall I think it promised more than it delivered.
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on 3 November 2013
Very funny book and also poignant. Highly recommended and in a similar vein to MASH. If you had suspicions that the military had problems like any other large organisation, this could be the book for you.
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on 23 December 2013
I have some experience of the Middle East and American military bureacracy so this black comedy rings very true.
The ridiculous and the deadly are intertwined.
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on 27 August 2013
Yes, I'm sure everyone will compare this to Catch 22. It isn't as poignant as Joseph Heller's masterpiece but I enjoyed it very much.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 15 October 2012
This debut is a fantastic fictional glimpse into the bizarre reality of modern warfare that is deeply grounded in the author's twenty years in the U.S. Army. Drawing from diaries he kept while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, the book centers around Sgt. Gooding, who drafts battalion press releases for the Public Affairs Office at Forward Operating Base Triumph in Baghdad. Gooding is one of the titular fobbits: "Like the shy, hairy-footed hobbits of Tolkien's world, they were reluctant to venture beyond their shire, bristling with rolls of concertina wire at the borders of the FOB. After all, there were goblins in turbans out there! Or so they convinced themselves. Supply clerks, motor pool mechanics, cooks, mail sorters, lawyers, trombone players, logisticians: Fobbits, one and all. They didn't give a [darn] about appearances. They were all about making it out Iraq in one piece."

Through Gooding's eyes, we see the inanities of the modern Army and how the frustrations of white collar work (server crashes, anyone?) now extend to military service. Gooding's portions of the book are colored by more than a few shades of workplace satire, in the vein of Office Space. Meanwhile, life beyond the FOB's walls, the life of the "door-kickers" is given to us via chapters focusing on the indecisive and ineffectual Captain Shrinkle, whose missteps keep falling to his commander, Lt. Col. Duret to clean up. Shrinkle and Duret narrate their own chapters and kind of represent the two ends of the spectrum of how we might want our soldiers to act as they represent the country. Shrinkle entered the military for the wrong reasons, rose in rank for the wrong reasons, and is a combination of poor judgement, self-centered righteousness, and outright ineptitude. Duret, on the other hand, is a solid career officer who has more or less mastered the art of projecting a calm and cool demeanor, even as he suffers crippling migraines and longs for the arms of his wife. In other words, Shrinkle is the kind of officer who endangers his men without even realizing it, while Duret is the kind of officer every mother would want for their son.

The voices of Gooding, Shrinkle, and Duret make up 90% of the book, with a few brief interludes featuring Gooding's superior, the pathetic, backseat editor, nosebleeding PAO commander, and Sgt. Lumley, who is one of Shrinkle's men. Through these five voices, the reader is sucked into the insular world of Operation Iraqi Freedom, with its acronyms, jargon, and boredom leavened with terror. The conversations, emails, diaries, etc. all combine to paint a very vivid portrait of a modern military monoculture. The book will inevitably be compared to predecessors like Catch-22 or films like M*A*S*H, but it stands firmly on its own as a great document of a time and place. Some readers might wish for a little more plot to move things along, but the book's main aim is to describe the inanities of daily life at the FOB. A masterpiece of military fiction that's about as different in tone and style as one could imagine from the last great war novel I read: Matterhorn.

Note: It's a shame that this book is burdened with such an awful cover, one that tells the reader absolutely nothing of what to expect inside. Terrible design.
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