cover image Bring out the Dog

Bring out the Dog

Will Mackin. Random House, $27 (192p) ISBN 978-0-8129-9564-0

In this spellbinding, adrenaline-fueled debut linked collection, Mackin pulls from his own time in the Navy to follow a team of SEALs who, from 2008 to 2011, serve and try to survive together, primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each story explodes with dust and dread as the SEALs are sent to recover the bodies of missing soldiers who were kidnapped south of Kabul; come to blows over chocolate milk in the mess hall; and snub a fellow SEAL who, disoriented in a cornfield one night, accidentally shoots the team’s beloved bomb-sniffing dog. “We could forgive fear, but not the inability to control it,” the narrator explains when the unfortunate man sits waiting with his bags after the incident. Throughout the book, though, it is the language as much as the experience that drives the action, creating taut, almost terrifying suspense. Mackin’s masterful prose is both poetic and aggressive. In one of the collection’s most haunting stories, “Crossing the River No Name,” the men are preparing for an ambush against a group of Taliban fighters emerging from the mountains of Pakistan, “the type of mission that earlier in the war would have been fun.” Before the mission’s end, they will rediscover that, just because the war has become repetitive and futile, it doesn’t mean anyone is safe. In this story, and indeed in the whole unforgettable collection, the men fighting this war know better than anyone how tragic each loss is. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM Partners. (Mar.)