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This destabilized version of American history is the vision of 22-year-old Eugene Allen, who has returned from Vietnam to write the book-within-a-book at the center of Hystopia. In conversation with some of the greatest war narratives, from Homer's Iliad to the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter", David Means channels the voice of Allen, the young veteran out to write a novel that can bring honor to those he fought with in Vietnam while also capturing the tragic history of his own family.
The critic James Wood has written that Means' language "offers an exquisitely precise and sensuous register of an often crazy American reality". In Hystopia, his highly anticipated first novel, David Means brings his full talent to bear on the crazy reality of trauma, both national and personal. Outlandish and tender, funny and violent, timely and historical, Hystopia invites us to consider whether our traumas can ever be truly overcome. The answers it offers are wildly inventive, deeply rooted in its characters, and wrung from the author's own heart.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Nicole Del Sesto on 01-18-17
Then we came to the end
This is one of those books that can only be fully appreciated by getting to the end. It’s complex! I was so confused in the beginning and distracted by the fact that it starts out with an Editor’s Note which states that certain historical facts have been twisted to fit the fictive universe, and then goes on to say that one of those “facts” is that JFK had 7 attempts on his life, and the “Genuine Assassination” happened in September in Illinois. That’s not a spoiler, it’s like the first page. The point of this comment is that the beginning takes concentration and I don’t recommend this on audio, which is what I did. The audio was well done, but I had to rewind so many times I can recite parts by memory.
This is a SUPER creative look at the Vietnam War, and trauma in general. The characters were kind of hard to distinguish one from the other. That may have been partly the audio, but I don’t think so. I’m a bit in awe of the sophistication of this book, and absolutely see why it is nominated for the Man Booker prize. For me, however, I appreciated it far more than I enjoyed it. It’s not something I would have read if not for the nomination, and I’m glad I did. In fact, now that it’s done I feel like I should go back and read it to catch what I missed. (I felt much the same with last year’s winner A Brief History of Seven Killings.)
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