An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle - a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself.
Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, that unmanned drones fill the sky. And when her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she quickly begins to be shaped by her particular time and place until, finally, through the influence of a mysterious functionary, she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. Telling her story is her nephew, Benjamin Chestnut, born during the war - part of the Miraculous Generation - and now an old man confronting the dark secret of his past, his family's role in the conflict and, in particular, that of his aunt, a woman who saved his life while destroying untold others.
Editors Select, April 2017 - Omar El Akkad's ambitious debut novel is set in a dystopian future America amid a second Civil War, following the Chestnut family - particularly young Sarat - as they seek refuge from the encroaching violence near their home in Louisiana. The country is torn apart at first by the divide over climate change and fossil fuels and then by assassination, violence, and plague. With cinematic description and imagery, El Akkad paints a bleak vision, made all the more horrifying by how palpable and timely it all seems. I was initially concerned this book would feel too close to home to be enjoyable - and yet I was utterly transfixed from the very start. I can easily see this novel becoming an important entry into the dystopian canon. Dion Graham's performance is masterful as always. His smooth, measured delivery is welcome guide through this chaotic, dark story. Sam, Audible Editor
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Best listen in years
Hard dystopian literature, not Hunger Games
Complex characters and a well fleshed world. It is a very competent book about the past and present, but is set in the future.
Loosely, American War might be compared with What is the What, Zone One, and The Magicians, in that they brought literary conventions to genre's/stories that are generally handled very differently. This book has more in common with dead southern authors and Toni Morrison than anything like The Hunger Games or Divergent.
If anyone remembers the previews for Donnie Darko, it was originally pitched as a slasher horror film. If you've seen it, it's something very special and unique and certainly not horror. I think a similar miss-marketing could happen with this book if people flock to it for war scenes, or flashy sic-fi elements.
Everything between the narrator as a child spending time with his aunt, after everything she has been through, was heart-breaking and warming. The cage match scene is also excellent.
This book is literature that will find cross-genre fans, but I hope it doesn't get sold as action packed sic-fi. It's a beautiful dark story about one girl who is raised to hate. It lets us in on how slippery that slope can be, and how we may not agree, but we can appreciate her journey.
- Daggie Oh