Audiobook Review: American War by Omar El Akkad
Narrator: Dion Graham
Published by Knopf Publishing Group on April 4th 2017
Genres: Dystopian, Science Fiction
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 war – part of the Miraculous Generation – 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.
American War is one of the most striking and visual books I’ve read in quite a while. It creates an almost palpable atmosphere and setting, and really immerses the reader in this world of war and plague. The writing is just absolutely beautiful, even if the world is not.
The premise is America is being ravaged by a second Civil War, triggered by an oil shortage and some southern states refusing to adhere to new regulations designed to curb global warming. At the same time, the population is also being decimated by a plague. We learn about it all through the story of Sarat who is living in a camp for displaced people after her father was killed. Sarat is a very interesting character, she has a strong spirit and is not one to conform easily. She does not necessarily fit in easily, but she finds her own place and purpose and journey makes a great read.
I found every page immersive and the world was quite frankly too easy to relate to or envision. This is a book that is a bit of a slow burn, but for those that appreciate a strong setting and a book that makes you think all paired with amazing writing, you’ll want to check this out.
Really my only concern with this book is that I listened to the audiobook edition, and while the narrator gave a great performance, I think the book itself would be easier to read in text as it jumps timelines and I found myself confused on several occassions, trying to place where and when the current scene was taking place. This would obviously not be an issue in text as it is really easy to flip back to the beginning of a section to correctly place the scene.
Overall, I love the concept,and the writing. It’s very relevant, and thought provoking, and even beyond that, the writing is excellent. I can see why this book won so much praise and I definitely recommend it.