The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 1

  • by M.T. Anderson
  • Narrated by Peter Francis James
  • 8 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

National Book Award, Young People's Literature, 2006
He is a boy dressed in silks and white wigs and given the finest of classical educations. Raised by a group of rational philosophers known only by numbers, the boy and his mother, a princess in exile from a faraway land, are the only people in their household assigned names. As the boy's regal mother, Cassiopeia, entertains the house scholars with her beauty and wit, young Octavian begins to question the purpose behind his guardians' fanatical studies. Only after he dares to open a forbidden door does he learn the hideous nature of their experiments - and his own chilling role in them. The first of two volumes, this deeply provocative audiobook reimagines the past as an eerie place that has startling resonance for listeners today.


What the Critics Say

"Highly accomplished." (Booklist) "Fascinating and eye-opening....this powerful novel will resonate with contemporary readers." (School Library Journal)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


This book is extraordinary: graceful, imaginative writing; excellent narration; fascinating story. But for those wishing for a lightheartedly merry romp through imaginaryland, you should consider another book. The novel explores grim aspects of our nation's early history - it is gripping, but also heartbreaking. Read it! But not when you're down in the dumps.
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- Shelly M. Felton

YA fiction at its very best

A fantastic book. Set in Boston before and during the opening of Revolutionary War, Octavian Nothing tells the odd story of a young boy of African origin, who is raised with the finest classical education by a college of philosophers as part of a noble experiment. Yet, there is much about the world he has been kept ignorant of, including the fact that the men who would establish a new democracy prosper from the labor of slaves who look like him and have no intention of freeing them. Though this might have been a pedestrian premise in the hands of another author, Anderson's colorful characters, keen wit, and delightful use of 18th century language make for a rich, unique narrative, its fanciful-sounding tone artfully masking a moving, serious work.

Like the very best YA authors, Anderson never sells short the reader's intelligence, putting Octavian in situations where the truth isn't always pretty and questions without answers lead Octavian to even more challenging questions and ideas. Some of these are probably a little over the head of the average 13 year old (or likely to annoy the kind of overprotective parents who can't accept that their kids might be able to reason for themselves), but Anderson handles the weightier concepts with subtlety, allowing them to exert their gravitational pull on the reader's mind without interfering with the story. Which is entertaining, full of twists, poignant, and wonderfully written. The kind of book someone can read in adolescence, then enjoy again in a few years as an adult, with a different take.

If you enjoy American history from a different angle, language, and storytelling at its finest, don't overlook this one. M.T. Anderson rocks.
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- Ryan

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-11-2006
  • Publisher: Listening Library