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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2017 Omar El Akkad (P)2017 Random House Audio

What listeners say about American War

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Hard dystopian literature, not Hunger Games

What made the experience of listening to American War the most enjoyable?

Complex characters and a well fleshed world. It is a very competent book about the past and present, but is set in the future.

What other book might you compare American War to and why?

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.

Which scene was your favorite?

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.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Never Forget

Any additional comments?

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.

30 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Best listen in years

This story breaks my rating scale -- I'd have to go back and subtract stars from anything I've listened to in years to make the 5 stars I gave it here accurate. It's an enthralling parable of recent history made all the more salient by placing what America does abroad, here at home.

Secondly, the reader's performance was stellar -- another curve buster who should have a special 10 star rating just like this book and its author deserves. I can't praise the reader's ability highly enough and I'll certainly go looking for other books he has narrated. I would easily choose a book outside my usual genres based solely on his skill as a reader.

36 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

It's no picnic - but nourishing all the same.

It's hard to quantify all the reasons you should read this book. While it's certainly not an uplifting tale as the title should suggest, it depicts war in a way most Americans don't grasp, or like to think about. I've read a lot of war journals, and non fiction, and I think this rings true to a lot of what I've seen and read. War is a hate and carelessness made manifest, and we should read more from accounts of the losing side than the winning side. I think Akkad poignantly drives that point home with an inspired piece of fiction. I'd also say it's not a perfectly crafted tale - but it definitely works. Some reviewer call it slow. I'd say it's realistic? It's a book about the victims of war, and the tone and pace reveal a sense of the expansive claustrophobia that long periods of internment and lack of self determination would entail. Impressive debut novel.

21 people found this helpful

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There's nothing like some recontextualising

... to make you rethink what you think you know. One of the few books I have read lately that captured my attention without thrill og massive story hooks. The bleek vision of the future is itself a hook, and by the time you have understood enough of what the world has become to leave, you're not going to leave Sarat!

6 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Well crafted characters, phenomenal performance, and a disappointing story

If you liked McCarthy’s The Road, you will like this. Well crafted characters going from despair to even deeper levels of despair. No plot and not much point, other than war is bad and people do bad things to other people.

5 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A Great American Story!

I throughly enjoyed this novel. The best way I can describe this book is as follows:
- A tragic story similar to the girl in the movie Sarafina.
- A story of family history similar to that of the novel The Passage
- The story telling (news accounts and excerpts from history) similar to that of the book World War Z
- A revised history / future based upon the Civil War, similar to the book the Underground Airlines
Also, the narration was excellent. Dion Graham "nailed" the southern accents perfectly. Overall, I felt like I really got to know the characters in the novel, especially Sarat. I would love to see this novel turned into a movie. Omar El Akkad, you did good. very good.

10 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Hard hitting and honest

This is a book about war. It doesn’t hold back. It doesn’t sugar coat. It doesn’t paint one side better than the other. It doesn’t pay homage to sentiment, tradition, or expectation. It doesn’t pretend that there’s good, god-chosen core to America that doesn’t let bad things happen.

It’s ugly, honest, and beautiful. I’m sure that’s why it doesn’t get all the stars it could, and why all the “now wait just a darned second” reviews.

It rubs everybody’s nose in the shit. And they all deserve it.

4 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Dystopian Novel for Civil War Buffs?

I see what did there, Omar. Po-Mo pastiche (no negative connotation intended), weaving together parts of America's actual past with a very plausible future to make a history-repeats-itself, Southern Gothic take on the usual post-environmental-disaster/war/plague dystopian novel. It *almost* works, and *would have* worked brilliantly if the characters were as compelling as the premise. Omar has clearly read a few books about the Civil War and peppers the book with clever, not-so-clever, interesting and not-so-interesting "easter eggs." A couple examples: Characters are named after Civil War figures (mostly those who have appeared in feature films and/or Ken Burns' documentary, so most readers will make the connection). Much of the book is set in Louisiana which in the 2070's is a lot how it was during the Civil War--an "occupied" state where people have conflicting loyalties, try to make a buck on outlawed products, but mostly try to survive being caught in the middle between two warring forces. The war and the political situation that causes it, though, are very 21st Century, involving the depletion of fossil fuels, suicide bombers, and WMD's. American War's story-within-a-story narration supplemented with excerpts from"official records," news reports, and diaries, (the diaries of the narrator's aunt play a central role in the novel) is pulled off skillfully. Perhaps *too* skillfully: Akkad seems to have put more effort into conjuring his vision of future America than the people who inhabit it. American War could have been a compelling mashup of Southern gothic and dystopian sci-fi--people struggling with family loyalty, dark secrets, betrayal, and guilt--in setting that forces them to make sense of a world torn apart. But since the characters felt mostly like props needed to bring about the next cool narrative trick, I found American War more of an interesting thought experiment than a satisfying novel.

3 people found this helpful

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Wow!

Loved it. This is a dark story, close enough to a possible future to be deeply disturbing. The narrator is excellent.

3 people found this helpful

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could not stop listening

what a great story and superb narration. well done! I was sad it ended too soon.

3 people found this helpful