In James Meek’s new novel We Are Now Beginning Our Descent, the war reporter Kellas returns to the U.K. from Afghanistan and has a few problems readjusting. At an awkward dinner party that includes his neo-con ex-girlfriend (“I couldn’t help it. The right-wing ones are so dirty”), the host makes the mistake of asking what a real war zone is like.

First, his plate. He picked it up, raised it to shoulder level and dropped it onto the slate floor, where it broke into several pieces, which went skittering over the tiles. He grabbed the plates in front of Sophie and Cunnery, put them together, and hurled them onto the floor, harder this time. The wineglasses! They went with a sweep of his forearm and in what must have been a very short time his feet stood in… More…