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American War: A novel by Omar El Akkad
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American War: A novel (2017)

by Omar El Akkad

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6933613,735 (3.85)45
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Another in quite a run of all-too-plausible novels set in a not-so-distant future America, in this case one in which climate change has changed the landscape and a second civil war has broken out. Rather frightening world-building and an absorbing narrative. ( )
  JBD1 | Jun 22, 2018 |
There are two things that books can do that as a reader I live for: one is to create a world that I can completely inhabit in my imagination, and the other is to challenge me to look at our world in a different way. American War succeeds at both of these. Set in the near future after the country has started experiencing the devastating effects of climate change, the book depicts the second American Civil War when the MAG (Mississippi-Alabama-Georgia) refuses to follow a law forbidding all use of fossil fuels. (I'll leave it to the reader to find out what happens to South Carolina.) Sarat grows up during this war, going from child to refugee to insurrectionist to detainee to a bitter and broken woman. Sarat is a character I absolutely loved, a woman who completely belongs to herself but is irrevocably broken by the horrors she experiences. With its science-fictional depiction of familiar horrors from our own unending wars in the Middle East--drones impersonally dropping death, "homicide" bombers, waterboarding--this novel helps us to see our "enemies" in a different way, and perhaps empathize with them. ( )
1 vote sturlington | Jun 17, 2018 |
It is the late twenty-first century and three of the US’s Southern states have seceded from the Union. A low-grade war now rumbles between them and the rest of the country. Rising sea levels have already drowned most of the coastal areas, and what remains of California and Texas are now part of Mexico. Sarat Chestnut was born in Louisiana, but when a suicide bomber kills her father, she, her twin sister, older brother and mother move to a refugee camp near the border with the North. All the time I was reading American War, I had trouble getting my head round it. It paints the secessionist states as the good guys – and the invective against the North in the book is really quite nasty – and yet not once does it mention the South’s racial history. The secessionists have also committed terrorist attacks against the Northerners – and yet are still painted as the side of good. The reason for their secession is their insistence on using fossil fuels after a total ban. It seems such a feeble excuse for a war – especially given the importance of Southern character, and how it relates to the war, in the narrative. It’s like El Akkad wanted the US as it now exists to be the bad guys – incarceration without due process, extraordinary rendition, waterboarding, all of which the North uses routinely in the novel – but because it was a civil war, he had to make the South the good guys. Despite the fact the last war the South fought was to keep the right to own slaves, despite the fact they were forced to stop segregation only some two generations ago, despite the fact their racist mindset is seeing a resurgence since Trump took power… Anway, Sarat survives a massacre at the refugee camp by Northerner militia, and so is recruited into an underground southern army. She becomes a sniper, and is responsible for the death of the general leading the Northern army (it’s not an “assassination” when you’re at war, incidentally). She is later captured and incarcerated at a Guantanamo-like facility, and tortured, for seven years, although her jailers clearly don’t know what she’s done. When she is eventually released, she is desperate for revenge, so desperate she does the unthinkable… which is pretty much explained in the prologue. And yet… and yet… it works. The excess of detail in the prose is annoying at first, but soon drops away as the story picks up. Perhaps Sarat reminded me over much of Radix from AA Attanasio’s novel of that title, but El Akkad has done his homework and invented a mostly credible world for his story. And, to be honest, the novel improved as it progressed. It did feel like it wasn’t sure of its targets – and a story such as American War definitely has targets – so much so it actually rendered its commentary mostly toothless. Perhaps it was just because I read American War after Gather the Daughters and Sea of Rust, but I thought it deserving of its place on the Clarke Award shortlist. I don’t think it deserves to win, but it at least deserves a chance at winning. ( )
  iansales | Jun 10, 2018 |
Wow!

My Dad has been saying since, possibly before Trump was elected, that the way things are going we're going to have another Civil War (and being a Trump supporter he would support this civil war) ... This book takes that idea and runs with it. What would happen if the United States was to have another Civil War ... the same war tactics we use today against our "enemies" used on each other ... torture without shame ...

A truly moving work of fiction that could all too easily become reality.

Adrianne ( )
  Adrianne_p | Jun 7, 2018 |
Not a new favorite or anything. . .decent book overall. ( )
  DKnight0918 | May 31, 2018 |
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Epigraph
The one you must punish is the one who punishes you. -- Kitab al-Aghani (The Book of Songs)
Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her; come ye, assemble all the beasts of the field, come to devour. -- Jeremiah 12:9
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To my father
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When I was young, I collected postcards.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451493583, Hardcover)

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, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be. Eventually Sarat is befriended by a mysterious functionary, under whose influence she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. The decisions that she makes will have tremendous consequences not just for Sarat but for her family and her country, rippling through generations of strangers and kin alike.

(retrieved from Amazon Sun, 01 Jan 2017 17:38:16 -0500)

"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, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be. Eventually Sarat is befriended by a mysterious functionary, under whose influence she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. The decisions that she makes will have tremendous consequences not just for Sarat but for her family and her country, rippling through generations of strangers and kin alike"--… (more)

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