Erica Horne, April 22, 2009 (view all comments by Erica Horne)
I have just finished listening to the audible version of Octavian Nothing, and it seems fitting that we have just elected an African American to be our President. I think Octavian would have been so happy to know this. Octavian is one the most complete, complicated, heartfelt characters a reader will come upon. Learning the plight of the African American soldiers who fought on either side of the revolution, was an education, and because of the wonderful story telling, and authentic period dialogue as well as narration, an adventure I was sorry to have end.
Octavian is real to me and has touched my heart in the deepest of ways.
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crowyhead, March 17, 2009 (view all comments by crowyhead)
I found this, the sequel to Anderson's award-winning "The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party" to be a little bit of a let-down. It's still an excellent book, but it's twice as long as the first volume and yet does not seem as eventful. Perhaps the issue is that it lacks much of the eerie confusion of the first novel; unlike in the beginning of "The Pox Party," where one isn't even quite certain whether the book is historical or speculative fiction, the reader is pretty much aware of the historical context. This makes it slightly less intriguing. We still want to follow Octavian on his voyage of discovery, but we already know the score in a way we didn't in the first novel.
Probably if I hadn't been so blown away by the first volume, I would be more enthusiastic about this one. But while I feel it was well-written and interesting, it didn't leave me excited or singing Anderson's praises quite so enthusiastically.
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Shoshana, March 14, 2009 (view all comments by Shoshana)
This second volume is less engaging than the first, though still ultimately enjoyable. Octavian is bored, and often, so is the reader. This is tale of a claustrophobic, uncertain time, which also affects the reader. I read the first book very quickly, but this volume took more work. I admire this diptych very much, but I'm not sure that this half would hold a young reader's attention well.
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"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"With an eye trained to the hypocrisies and conflicted loyalties of the American Revolution, Anderson resoundingly concludes the finely nuanced bildungsroman begun in his National Book Award-winning novel. Again comprised of Octavian's journals and a scattering of other documents, the book finds Octavian heading to Virginia in response to a proclamation made by Lord Dunmore, the colony's governor, who emancipates slaves in exchange for military service. Octavian's initial pride is short-lived, as he realizes that their liberation owes less to moral conviction than to political expediency. Disillusioned, facing other crises of conscience, Octavian's growth is apparent, if not always to himself: when he expresses doubt about having become any more a man, his mentor, Dr. Trefusis, assures him, 'That is the great secret of men. We aim for manhood always and always fall short. But my boy, I have seen you at least reach half way.' Made aware of freedom-fighters on both sides of the conflict (as well as heart-stopping acts of atrocity), readers who work through and embrace Anderson's use of historical parlance will be rewarded with a challenging perspective onAmerican history. Ages 14 — up." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
by Booklist (Starred Review),
"[M]ore awe-inspiring reinterpretations of America's birth....Even more present in this volume are passionate questions, directly relevant to teens' lives, about basic human struggles for independence, identity, freedom, love, and the need to reconcile the past."
by Jerry Griswold, The New York Times Book Review,
"I believe Octavian Nothing will someday be recognized as a novel of the first rank, the kind of monumental work Italo Calvino called 'encyclopedic' in the way it sweeps up history into a comprehensive and deeply textured pattern."
by Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review),
"Elegantly crafted writing in an 18th-century voice, sensitive portrayals of primary and secondary characters and a fascinating author's note make this one of the few volumes to fully comprehend the paradoxes of the struggle for liberty in America."
by School Library Journal (Starred Review),
"[A] brilliant, affecting, and philosophical sequel....Anderson's masterful pacing, surprising use of imagery and symbolism, and adeptness at crafting structure make this a powerful reimagining of slavery and the American Revolution dazzle."
"More cohesive than the first book, it is a wonderfully written story with immersive descriptions of life during the Revolution, but it is still a challenging read that touches on some truly difficult topics."
"[T]his great, tragic, sometimes even darkly humorous tale of an extraordinary young man's experience of slavery in America is related in the language of the 18th century, making it a demanding but rewarding read."
Depicting intense scenes of war and elusive visions of liberty, this astonishing sequel to the National Book Award-winning Vol. 1: The Pox Party relays Octavian's experiences with the Royal Ethiopian Regiment off the coast of Virginia.
The stunning conclusion to the National Book Award winner and New York Times bestseller recounts Octavian's experiences as the Revolutionary War explodes around him. Ultimately, this astonishing narrative escalates to a startling, deeply satisfying climax, while reexamining our national origins in a singularly provocative light.
The hard-hitting story of Cy Williams, 17, who suffers the horrors of a labor camp where black boys accused of crimes are sent—brutality, near starvation, humiliation, rape. Cy hatches an escape plan that involves murdering two men. Ultimately he sacrifices himself to save the life of another inmate.
Cy Williams, thirteen, has always known that he and the other black folks on Strong's plantation have to obey white men, no question. Sure, he's free, as black people have been since his grandfather's day, but in rural Georgia, that means they're free to be whipped, abused, even killed. Almost four years later, Cy yearns for that freedom, such as it was. Now he's a chain gang laborer, forced to do backbreaking work, penned in and shackled like an animal, brutalized, beaten, and humiliated by the boss of the camp and his hired overseers. For Cy and the boys he's chained to, there's no way out, no way back.
And then hope begins to grow in him, along with strength and courage he didn't know he had. Cy is sure that a chance at freedom is worth any risk, any sacrifice. This powerful, moving story opens a window on a painful chapter in the history of race relations.
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