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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War

Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War -

I have yet to read the themed anthology that wasn't a little good, a little bad and a lot of in between. It's something I just expect now. After the last couple I read, I thought I was done with them, but here comes another one that catches my attention: Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War. I'm not sure why I wanted to read this. I hoped I could get something out of it, maybe a sense of great humanity. But really, another themed anthology, and one written entirely by soldiers? I don't know why, but it seemed a recipe for subpar writing.

I was wrong. Yes, Fire and Forget shares some commonalities with other anthologies of its class, and there are definitely works in here that I myself would've never included, but as a whole, this collection is above average. There are some really powerful and wonderfully written stories here. The authors of these tales give such a clear picture of the desperation and confusion that can cloud a person when returning from military service. Most of these stories are not so much about what happened “over there,” but about what happens after all that. A common element in many of these is a loss or gain of specific senses. It's done so well that I did not doubt the veracity of many of these author's stories, the things they have seen, and the world they have entered. Their stories contain more truths that I personally I know as a human being than any other report out of Afghanistan and Iraq has shown me, and therefore I believe them.

Particularly stellar stories were written by Andrew Slater, Colby Buzzell, Mariette Kalinowski, Phil Klay, and Siobhan Fallon. There were several other well-written pieces as well, and for a themed anthology of only fifteen stories, Fire and Forget is by far the best of its kind I've read to date.