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Editorial Reviews

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

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

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Overall

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Performance

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Story

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  • Story

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.

23 of 25 people found this review helpful

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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.<br/>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.

20 of 22 people found this review helpful

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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.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant story! Would highly recommend!

I loved every minute of this story! It hits close to home with the way the world is today and would suggest anybody with an interest in dystopian literature to give it a read.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Great premise...great imagery, slow and tedious

Is there anything you would change about this book?

More detail on actual events that lead up to the war and more elements of the waging of the war.

Which character – as performed by Dion Graham – was your favorite?

Sarat

Could you see American War being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

Definitely. A little less sci-fi than the current post apocalyptic genre stories.

Any additional comments?

Great premise and story idea, left me wanting more. Outstanding writing however and would likely read authors next effort

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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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.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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I Can't Tell a Pillow From a Stone

I cannot tell if it's the company I keep, the books I read or the reality of Putin, Trump, Kim Jong-un, Xi Jinping, et al but I am a little paranoid these days. For instance, I'm constantly mapping out how I'd get back to HQ and set up a perimeter from where I stand in the city or country as it were. This must read novel is like Skagboys, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, The Stand and Oryx and Crake combined. Okay, it's nothing like Skagboys but like all these pieces I never wanted it to end and cannot wait to read this one again.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Scary to think this could all happen

In the midst of our current political climate, this story hit a bit too close to home at times. It certainly causes the American reader to
Have an inside glimpse of what our lives would be like if war erupted on our soil causing innocent women and children to fend for themselves.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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amazing detail, sometimes clunky writing

so ambitious a plot. really fully realized dystopian future.

the characters were so well done. jumped off the page, well, phone.

narrator was great but must have gotten super tired of reading all the unecessary “he said” and “she said”.

cant wait to read more of this author.

liked this book better than any other dystopian genre novel.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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First foray into audiobooks was a success!

Story is captivating with just enough provocative social commentary but not so much it removes the allure of a fiction work.

Narrator does perfect switching a few voices and maintaining a healthy blend of emphasis and pace that makes sure you’re still fully engaged.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful