This prophetic debut novel from Omar El Akkad has haunted me since I read it in April. American War paints a bleak future in which the North and South are warring for a second time in US history, this time over fossil fuel use in the year 2074. In this sharply written book, El Akkad explores asymmetric warfare, climate change, rebellion, extrajudicial torture, refugees, and the ethics of unmanned drones raining death and destruction on innocent civilians. I cannot recommend it highly enough. A must-read vision of warfare and ethics in the coming century. Recommended By Mary S., Powells.com
American War is the story of America at war with itself, and whatever you think that might mean, Omar El Akkad has some news for you: it's more frightening than you could ever imagine. Seemingly ripped from today's headlines, America is fighting itself over fossil fuel, and the sides fall out between North and South (blue and red, respectively). Sarat, the main character, is almost a case study in how to create a feral fighter; she has survived the tragedies that land her in a refugee camp, and is ripe for the subtle "training" she receives at the hands of a Svengali. But, perhaps her training has gone too far; perhaps her teacher has taught her too well.
Beautifully written, American War is a brutal wake-up call for all of us who think it can't happen here. El Akkad, a professional journalist, has mined his years of reporting to create this horrific tale that begs to be told; one that is almost impossible to put down. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
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.
“Whether read as a cautionary tale of partisanship run amok, an allegory of past conflicts, or a study of the psychology of war, American War is a deeply unsettling novel. The only comfort the story offers is that it’s a work of fiction. For the time being, anyway.” Justin Cronin, The New York Times Book Review
“American War is an extraordinary novel. El Akkad’s story of a family caught up in the collapse of an empire is as harrowing as it is brilliant, and has an air of terrible relevance in these partisan times.” Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven
“Sarat is a fascinating character....Thought-provoking [and] earnest...El Akkad’s formidable talent is to offer up a stinging rebuke of the distance with which the United States sometimes views current disasters, which are always happening somewhere else. Not this time.” Jeff VanderMeer, Los Angeles Times
“Follow the tributaries of today’s political combat a few decades into the future and you might arrive at something as terrifying as Omar El Akkad’s debut novel, American War. Across these scarred pages rages the clash that many of us are anxiously speculating about in the Trump era: a nation riven by irreconcilable ideologies, alienated by entrenched suspicions....both poignant and horrifying.” Ron Charles, The Washington Post
About the Author
Omar El Akkad was born in Cairo, Egypt and grew up in Doha, Qatar until he moved to Canada with his family. He is an award-winning journalist and author who has traveled around the world to cover many of the most important news stories of the last decade. His reporting includes dispatches from the NATO-led war in Afghanistan, the military trials at Guantànamo Bay, the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt and the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Missouri. He is a recipient of Canada’s National Newspaper Award for investigative reporting and the Goff Penny Memorial Prize for Young Canadian Journalists, as well as three National Magazine Award honorable mentions. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
Omar El Akkad on PowellsBooks.Blog
Portland-based writer Omar El Akkad’s latest work, What Strange Paradise
, is a beautiful, angry novel about the migrant crisis in Europe. Expertly teasing out the strings of exile, pride, greed, trauma, longing, and hope that entangle his diverse characters, El Akkad makes clear indictments without sacrificing the complex emotions of the “bad” actors...