War Porn launches like a mortar, with a bit of disorienting poetry: "rage forth, bold hero & man of war you have no/flood documenting her lament, no legal recourse in re:/administrative decisions on the matter of/torture…"

The callback to John Dos Passos' World War I modernist masterpiece, 1919, is uncanny. But Oregon-born Roy Scranton's debut novel (Soho, 339 pages, $26) pushes on to include the story of the real victims—the people whose land is being invaded. There's a dissonance between the "bold hero" and "administrative decisions on the matter of torture."

The character Wilson, a bookish soldier who enlisted as much out of boredom as patriotism, seems to parallel the author's own life: Both grew up in Oregon and enlisted after 9/11, and both drove the lead Humvee in Army convoys. But Scranton doesn't make Wilson and his company into brave liberators. They're bored young men who release their energy by working out incessantly and torturing camel spiders.

The book's middle is devoted not to American soldiers but to the perspective of the Iraqi people just before and during the 2003 invasion. The central story is about an Iraqi mathematician named Qasim who finds himself constantly jerked around by larger forces, from Saddam's tyrannical police to the invading U.S. troops. But the book's storylines reverberate outward from the middle in both directions, to characters farther away from the violence.

And so the first storyline is set far from Iraq, centering on a group of friends in Utah having a cookout. One guest becomes heated as she imagines the atrocities that returning veteran Aaron may have committed, another is voyeuristically curious, while still another is attracted to Aaron's dark and violent energy. But as Aaron begins to fulfill their interests—getting in a tussle with the first guest, showing images of torture to the next, and attempting to seduce the last—they each become disgusted by the very things they thought they wanted.

The book seems designed to bring out this disgust and discomfort. In other writings, Scranton has called the invasion "an aggressive power grab executed with astonishing idiocy," and he certainly doesn't paint the American troops in a flattering light here. War Porn's scenes of rape and torture, and the unrelentingly racist language of the troops should make you want to put the book down at points.

There is a conflict of interest here: Should a white American soldier who participated in the invasion of Iraq tell a story from the perspective of the invaded? To whom do these stories belong? War Porn uses the very crimes we voyeuristically crave to implicate us in the crimes perpetrated in our name.

Roy Scranton reads from War Porn at Powell's City of Books, 1005 W Burnside St., on Monday, Sept. 12. 7:30 pm. Free.