Review: BOOKLIST

An Angel From Hell: Real Life on the Front Lines

By Ryan A. Conklin (Caliber/Berkley)

For someone best known for his appearance on MTV’s Real World: Brooklyn, Conklin comes off as refreshingly clearheaded in this straightforward military memoir. Prior to his reality-show stardom, Conklin enlisted in the army at 17, eventually finding a place in the decorated Rakkasans regiment, patrolling the streets of Tikrit, Iraq. Ploddingly sequential in stretches, the book proves Conklin is no wordsmith and not especially good at conveying texture. But he’s disarmingly earnest and equipped with a razor-sharp memory—his depictions of trying to get a glimpse of Saddam Hussein, interacting with Iraqi youth, staving off crushing boredom, and despairing at the ineptitude of the “Keystone Cops” (aka the Iraqi army) are all extensively cataloged. Isolated moments of rage—as when Conklin sees an image of the 9/11 attacks on an Iraqi citizen’s cell phone—bring him into focus as a flawed hero, but this book will be of greatest use to readers seriously considering enlisting. As Conklin makes quite clear, it is a job equal parts heroic quest and “suckfest.”

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