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American War Audiobook

American War: A Novel

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Audible Editor 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

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (314 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Daggie Oh 04-05-17
    Daggie Oh 04-05-17
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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.
    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.

    16 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    odin 04-08-17
    odin 04-08-17 Member Since 2009
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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.

    13 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    andrew 04-07-17
    andrew 04-07-17 Member Since 2013
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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.

    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
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    VirgilCane Prairie Village, KS 04-22-17
    VirgilCane Prairie Village, KS 04-22-17 Member Since 2017

    I am social worker by trade, but fantasize about being paid to read or having an alpaca farm.

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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.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
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    Colleen C 04-10-17
    Colleen C 04-10-17
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    "This is a must read."

    This is a powerful piece that gripped me from the beginning. A true thought experiment imagining the horrors of war as it exists in the world today as they might look in America's future.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
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    Reader X Hanover, NH 04-10-17
    Reader X Hanover, NH 04-10-17 Member Since 2015
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    "Believable and insightful"
    What made the experience of listening to American War the most enjoyable?

    The development of Saraht is believable. Parallels with Iraq are profound. As an American, the story and characters were very believable and it opened my eyes to recent history in Syria and Iraq. Performance is excellent and the writing is high quality.


    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Clara R. Arechiga México D.F. 04-07-17
    Clara R. Arechiga México D.F. 04-07-17 Member Since 2015

    piter

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    "Electric, plausible, scary"

    No Hunger Games or Divergent. Yes, Akkad uses "birds" like in the H.G, but his future is more like Paolo Bacigalupi's work. And some of it is already happening; maybe the juxtaposition of war tactics seems unbelievable to Americans, but for us who live elsewhere is not shocking to think it possible. Americans did have a terrible Civil War, the country is divided, laws are unmade and Guantanamo is a part of the USA where torture is routinely used.
    Climate change, oil, poverty and mistrust. Same old all over the world. Read it the same week of the Syria's gas attacks, and this made the book bitterly relevant.
    Some of the coincidences were a little too theatrical at the end, maybe some of the dialogues were ponderous and discursive, but wow, this is a good book.
    What a first novel.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    kem Centreville, VA United States 04-20-17
    kem Centreville, VA United States 04-20-17 Member Since 2016
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    "A thought provoking read"

    Considering how some days in this country are currently going, this was at moments a hard book to listen to. It did not always seem difficult to make the leap from fantasy to reality. And if you are a student of American history and in particular our Civil War, some of this material-despite the fact that it should seem absolutely preposterous- seems achingly familiar instead. But overall, it was a beautifully written piece with characters that came to life and that I found myself struggling to understand and to like, which made them more real of course.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Olga A. Ryerson 04-16-17

    Olga

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    "A Dark Read"
    What did you love best about American War?

    The story stayed true to itself. Nicely written, with well-developed characters.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of American War?

    When Sarat tasted real honey for the first time and her time at Camp Patience where she was misguided.


    Have you listened to any of Dion Graham’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    This is my first Dion Graham book. He played the different characters well. I would definitely listen to another book narrated by him.


    Who was the most memorable character of American War and why?

    It would have to be Sarat as you follow her through her life. The story explains why she is who she is, although her action at the end is unforgivable. Secondly it would be Ben, as he tells us his aunt's story.


    Any additional comments?

    Definitely recommend this book. It's engrossing, but quite depressing I might add.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mel USA 04-26-17
    Mel USA 04-26-17 Member Since 2009

    Say something about yourself!

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    "The Problem with Perceived Parallels"


    For the fourth time this week I find myself sitting down to review a book that as far as whether or not I liked it, I'm not sure. Definitely, it is an interesting premise...a *how do you like it when the shoe is on the other foot* wake-up kind of read. Without giving away any of the spoilers, you immediately are told of the current state of the world, the Northern American continent drastically altered by climate change that is presumably due to our/mankind (Americans to be more exact) use of fossil fuel. The America you are introduced to is an anachronistic nightmare, more along the lines of the first Civil War than this civil war of 2074. People have been struggling to survive since the climate change and a plague that was purposely unleashed during the war -- how quickly the Southern part of the country has reverted back to the pre-industrial age, sprinkled with futuristic drones, overseas funders, and other warring horrors. It's enough to turn a reader into an avid Doomsday Prepper. Again, brother wars against brother. "The South will rise again," (everything old is new again) is the whispered war cry. Interesting Premise.

    The characters are less defined, but their dispositions strongly drawn. Their backgrounds not too relevant since all have been reduced to something between human debris and collateral damage. Common between them is the struggle to survive. The older people yearning for what they remember, the younger growing up with the tenacity of junkyard dogs. Sarat is the stand-out, not only for her uncommon courage and street smarts, but her substantial size. It's clear early in the book that she is destined for more in this war. She is discovered by an opportunist and therein lies the meat of this book; her transformation physically and mentally. Her torture is gruesome with a too vivid account of the waterboarding process. I was constantly reminded that this is war -- it's supposed to be gruesome. No one in this book is very likable. Sarat becomes almost inhuman before you can even have compassion for her. And I am still asking myself about her final act. (You'll see.)

    Some of the similarities between now and then -- the war between the states, the global events, the use of biological warfare -- feel too orchestrated to match current events, too checklist, and obviously juxtaposed. Not that there isn't some concern! Some may find these parallels a karmic writing on the wall: "Oh my God! Trump is in the white house and it's all going to happen..." And that is how I feel I was supposed to feel; the author's goal in writing this book. My mother used to yell at me when I was teasing my little brother..."How'd you like it if he did that to you? One of these days he's going to grow up and do just that, then you'll see how you like it!" I hated hearing that. Under a bio of this author that I found online was this description of the book: "a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself." I could hear my mother's warning.

    For some reason, I was not as alarmed by the possible foreshadowings in this book as I was with directions my mind went thinking about the author's motives for writing this book. Did I feel warned, chastised, or entertained...I'm not sure.

    7 of 12 people found this review helpful

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