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American War

A Novel
Written by: Omar El Akkad
Narrated by: Dion Graham
Length: 12 hrs and 22 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (124 ratings)
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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 members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

This is her story.

There is not a single person you wouldn't love if you could read their story.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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An interesting read....

This is one of those books I've come to appreciate more after reading, as I find my mind wanders back to it. Chosen for a book club I initially found the subject matter to be depressing and the book to be a heavy read, but it really does perfectly capture a world of 'what if'. I think both author and narrator did an amazing job! #Audible1

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What a story!

A wonderful piece of speculative fiction by Omar El Akkad. I may have hummed and hawed at some parts but in the end I was left dumbstruck. Not by a crazy twist or an unforseen conclusion but by the way this journey was able to, at least partly, humanize an indefensible act. I don't want to go any further and spoil anything for future readers so I'll leave it at that. I just wish we had gotten some more background in a few areas. Damn fine nonetheless!

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Definitely worthwhile!

Regardless of the genre, we're all looking for a story that's satisfying....something that will leave a mark on our psyche. With American War that appetite finds itself well nourished.
The background of future civil war is both gripping and prophetic. And in the foreground the characters are developed with great insight into the human condition rendering them vivid and psychologically undressed before the reader, which in the end makes of the story an intimate experience for the audience.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Compelling, character-driven, dark, thoughtful

Akkad is a very good writer: descriptive but not gushy, imaginative but not distracted, thoughtful but not soap-boxy, character-driven but with a well-paced plot. This book is not for the faint of heart: it gets quite dark, but thankfully without being gratuitous... Most of the graphic events are left just out of the reader's view. Early on I began bracing for a book that was just an indirect tirade against Republicans out Democrats. Not so, not at all. Insights regarding the contemporary political scene can be found (and both sides are dissected), however, American War is more deep than picking a side... It is a stark examination of human nature and social forces. This is not Fox versus CNN (I wouldn't have finished it if it was). Unlike another reviewer, I am glad that Akkad did not get caught up in trying to predict future technology —that isn't the point, and would distract and detract. His vision of the future is compelling, measured, absorbing, and convicting. This is a timely book, and I reckon it will be for awhile yet.

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  • A
  • 2018-03-02

mixed bag

I'll start with what is good in this book. El Akkad does a great job of creating a multi-layered protagonist. in the end this is a person we sympathize with, but when looked at more objectively is a pretty horrible person. the story has some very good individual elements in it. the narration is consistent and good throughout, except for a painful section which has many redactions.

where I think the book fell short is in being a cohesive story. I did not like the perspective changes in the last third or the excerpts between the chapters. the future He depicts here is a weird amalgamation. the world has suffered much ecological and geopolitical changes, but the technology seems to be stuck in the past and the culture seems to be a stereotype of mid-twentieth-century Southern USA.

overall this is a good book but not great. I would not go out out of my way to recommend it to anyone.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

An interesting premise told very slowly

the narrator does an excellent job at reading the story however it meanders along and ultimately does not offer anything surprising

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    2 out of 5 stars

interesting as an allegory, but just that

The novel fantasizes about a destroyed America and an emergent Arab empire, driven by solar panels and a nasty desire to intervene abroad. So, it's a kind of weird allegory of the current world, topsy-turvy. We see an Arab empire that is slowly destroying America by supporting southern radicals (who look a lot like Jihadists) as they spread destruction everywhere. There are so many possible booby-traps and ideological no-fly-zones here that it is kind of fun, embarrassing and fascinating. BUT after a few chapters, there's no real development, just a slow awkward fall of a woman. It just fizzles by the end. Promising premises, though!

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • odin
  • 2017-04-08

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.

29 of 31 people found this review helpful

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  • Daggie Oh
  • 2017-04-05

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.

24 of 26 people found this review helpful

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  • andrew
  • 2017-04-07

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.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Trine Malde
  • 2018-01-29

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!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • M. Sanders
  • 2017-06-03

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.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2018-02-07

Wow!

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

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • SGC-Northern CA
  • 2018-02-01

could not stop listening

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

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Kohl Juranas
  • 2018-01-24

Good Read

It starts out excellent and engaging but it slows down towards the end. I would have liked to hear about more from the Blues and the world at large.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • christopher
  • 2017-12-29

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • N K
  • 2017-12-21

Could Not Stop Listening

This an instant classic in my library. Well written and well performed. Plus an intriguing story that sadly could be part of our future.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful