lowest American discount War: discount A Novel online sale

lowest American discount War: discount A Novel online sale

lowest American discount War: discount A Novel online sale

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER • A second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle—this gripping debut novel asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself. From the author of What Strange Paradise

"Powerful ... as haunting a postapocalyptic universe as Cormac McCarthy [created] in The Road." —The New York Times


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.

Review

“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

“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
 
“El Akkad . . . has an innate (and depressingly timely) feel for the textural details of dystopia; if only his grim near-future fantasy didn’t feel so much like a crystal ball.” 
—Leah Greenblat, Entertainment Weekly

“Powerful . . . If violence and conflict feel distant, journalist Omar El Akkad’s debut novel brings them home. . . . Despite its future setting, it’d feel wrong to call American War a work of science fiction. Hell, it’d even feel off to call it dystopian, given that it’s so few steps removed from our reality.”
—Kevin Nguyen, GQ

“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

“El Akkad has created a brilliantly well-crafted, profoundly shattering saga of one family’s suffering in a world of brutal power struggles, terrorism, ignorance, and vengeance. American War is a gripping, unsparing, and essential novel for dangerously contentious times.”
—Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)

“Terrifyingly plausible . . . Part family chronicle, part apocalyptic fable,  American War is a vivid narrative of a country collapsing in on itself.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
“Gripping and frightening . . . Well written, inventive, and engaging, this relentlessly dark tale introduces a fascinating character. . . . Highly recommended.”
—James Coan,  Library Journal (starred review)

“Striking . . . A most unusual novel, one featuring a gripping plot and an elegiac narrative tone.”
—Rayyan Al-Shawaf, The Boston Globe

“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
 
“Depicting a world uncomfortably close to the one we live in, American War is as captivating as it is deeply frightening.”
—Jarry Lee, Buzzfeed.com
 
American War is terrifying in its prescient vision of the future.”
—Maris Kreizman, New York magazine/Vulture

“Astounding, gripping and eerily believable . . . masterful . . . Both the story and the writing are lucid, succinct, powerful and persuasive.”
—Lawrence Hill, The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

“Ambitious . . . [a] complex, thoroughly imagined domestic dystopia.”
—Terra Arnone, National Post (Toronto)
  
“Omar El Akkad has created an American future that is both terrifying and plausible. In a world seared and flooded by global warming, the U.S. has fractured again into North and South. The barbarism that ensues is all the more awful because we know the rivers and the cities. And we know these people: they are our neighbors; they are us. Through the eyes of a young girl El Akkad lets us see the soul-crushing toll of war. It was only in the stunned minutes after I’d finished the novel that I realized he had also taught us how to make a consummate terrorist.”
—Peter Heller, author of The Dog Stars and Celine
 
“American War, a work of a singular, grand, brilliant imagination, is a warning shot across the bow of the United States. Omar El Akkad has created a novel that isn’t afraid to be a pleasurable yarn as it delves into the hidden currents of American culture and extrapolates from them to envision a deeply tragic potential future.”
—David Means, author of Hystopia
 
“Omar El Akkad’s urgent debut transmutes our society’s current dysfunction into a terrifying yet eerily recognizable future, where contemporary global and local conflicts have wreaked havoc on American soil. The threads between today and that future are his masterfully shaped characters. Their resilience, savagery, and humanity serve both as a portrait of who we are but also what we might very well become.”
—Elliot Ackerman, author of Dark at the Crossing

“Depicting a world uncomfortably close to the one we live in,  American War is as captivating as it is deeply frightening.”
—Jarry Lee, Buzzfeed.com
 
American War is terrifying in its prescient vision of the future.”
—Maris Kreizman,  New York magazine

“Piercing . . . Written with precise care for the fictional truth . . . the book sounds a warning blast. American War is a disquieting novel of immense depth, and possibly a classic of our time.
—Al Woodworth, Omnivoracious.com
 
“Although set in America, [El Akkad’s] riveting story in many ways transcends politics, with details so impeccable and a plot so tightly woven that the events indeed feel factual.”
—Alice Cary, BookPage
 
“A dystopian vision . . . cannily imagined . . . But above all, El Akkad’s novel is an allegory about present-day military occupation, from drone strikes to suicide bombers to camps full of refugees.”
Kirkus Reviews

"Stunning."
 —Michele Filgate, O, the Oprah Magazine

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.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One
 
 
I was happy then.
 
The sun broke through a pilgrimage of clouds and cast its unblinking eye upon the Mississippi Sea.

The coastal waters were brown and still. The sea’s mouth opened wide over ruined marshland, and every year grew wider, the water picking away at the silt and sand and clay, until the old riverside plantations and plastics factories and marine railways became unstable. Before the buildings slid into the water for good, they were stripped of their usable parts by the delta’s last holdout residents. The water swallowed the land. To the southeast, the once-glorious city of New Orleans became a well within the walls of its levees. The baptismal rites of a new America.

A little girl, six years old, sat on the porch of her family''s home under a clapboard awning. She held a plastic container of honey, which was made in the shape of a bear. From the top of its head golden liquid slid out onto the cheap pine floorboard.

The girl poured the honey into the wood’s deep knots and watched the serpentine manner in which the liquid took to the contours of its new surroundings. This is her earliest memory, the moment she begins.

And this is how, in those moments when the bitterness subsides, I choose to remember her. A child.

I wish I had known her then, in those years when she was still unbroken.

“Sara Chestnut, what do you think you''re doing?” said the girl''s mother, standing behind her near the door of the shipping container in which the Chestnuts made their home. “What did I tell you about wasting what''s not yours to waste?”

“Sorry, Mama.”

“Did you work to buy that honey, hmm? No, I didn''t think you did. Go get your sister and get your butt to breakfast before your daddy leaves.”

“OK, Mama,” the girl said, handing back the half-empty container. She ducked past her mother, who patted dirt from the seat of her fleur-de-lis dress.

Her name was Sara T. Chestnut but she called herself Sarat. The latter was born of a misunderstanding at the schoolhouse earlier that year. The new kindergarten teacher accidentally read the girl''s middle initial as the last letter of her first name— Sarat. To the little girl''s ears, the new name had a bite to it. Sara ended with an impotent exhale, a fading ahh that disappeared into the air. Sarat snapped shut like a bear trap. A few months later, the school shut down, most of the teachers and students forced northward by the encroaching war. But the name stuck.
Sarat.
 
A hundred feet from the western riverbank, the Chestnuts lived in a corrugated steel container salvaged from a nearby shipyard. Wedges of steel plating anchored to cement blocks below the ground held the home in place. At the corners, a brown rust crept slowly outwards, incubated in ceaseless humidity.

            A lattice of old-fashioned solar panels lined the entirety of the roof, save for one corner occupied by a rainwater tank. A tarp rested near the panels. When storms approached, the tarp was pulled over the roof with ropes tied to its ends and laced through hooks. By guiding the rainfall away from the panels to the tank and, when it overfilled, toward the land and river below, the family was able to collect drinking water and defend their home from rust and decay.

Sometimes, during winter storms, the family took shelter on the porch, where the awning sagged and leaked, but spared them the unbearable acoustics of the shipping container under heavy rain, which sounded like the bowl of a calypso drum.

In the summer, when their house felt like a steel kiln, the family spent much of their time outdoors. It was during this extended season, which burned from March through mid-December, that Sarat, her twin Dana, and her older brother Simon experienced their purest instances of childhood joy. Under the distant watch of their parents, the children would fill buckets of water from the river and use them to drench the clay embankment until it became a slide. Entire afternoons and evenings were spent this way: the children careening down the greased earth into the river and climbing back up with the aid of a knotted rope; squealing with delight on the way down, their backsides leaving deep grooves in the clay.

In a coop behind the house the family kept an emaciated clutch of chickens. They were loud and moved nervously, their feathers dirty and brown. When they were fed and the weather was not too hot, they produced eggs. In other times, if they were on the edge of revolt or death, they were preemptively slaughtered, their necks pinned down between the nails of a nearby stump.

The shipping container was segmented by standing clapboards. Benjamin and Martina Chestnut lived in the back of the home. Simon and the twins shared the middle third, living in a peace which grew more and more uneasy as Simon neared his ninth birthday and the girls their seventh.
In the final third of the home there was a small kitchen table of sand-colored plywood, smeared and notched from years of heavy use. Near the table a pine pantry and jelly cabinet held sweet potatoes, rice, bags of chips and sugar cereal, pecans, flour, and pebbles of grain milled from the sorghum fields that separated the Chestnuts from their nearest neighbor. In a compact fridge that burdened the solar panels, the family kept milk and butter and cans of old Coke.

By the front door, a statue from the days of Benjamin''s childhood kept vigil. It was the Virgin of Guadalupe, cast in ceramic, her hands pressed against each other, her head lowered in prayer. A beaded bouquet of yellow tickseed and white water lilies lay at her feet, alongside a melted, magnolia-scented candle. When the flowers died and hardened the children were sent out to the fields to find more.

Sarat skipped past the statue, looking for her sister. She found her in the back of the house, standing on her parents'' bed, inspecting with steel concentration her reflection in the oval vanity mirror. She had taken one of her mother''s house dresses, a simple sleeveless tunic whose violet color held despite countless washings. The little girl wore the top half of the dress, which covered the entirety of her frame; the rest of the garment slid limply off the bed and onto the floor. She had applied, far too generously, her mother''s cherry red lipstick—the jewel of the simple makeup set her mother owned but rarely used. Despite employing utmost delicacy, Dana could not keep within the lines of her small pink lips, and looked now as though she''d hastily eaten a strawberry pie.

“Come play with me,” Sarat said, confounded by what her twin was doing.

Dana turned to her sister, annoyed. “I''m busy,” she said.

“But I''m bored.”

“I''m being a lady!”

Dana returned to her mirror, trying to wipe some of the lipstick with the back of her hand.

“Mama says we have to go have breakfast with daddy now.”

“OK, oh- kay,” Dana said. “Not a moment peace in this house,” she added, misquoting a thing she''d heard her mother say on occasion.
 
Sarat was the second-born girl, five and a half minutes behind her sister. And although she''d been told by her parents that both she and Dana were made of the same flesh, Dana was her father''s girl, with his easygoing wit and sincere smile. Sarat was made of her mother: stubborn, hard, undaunted by calamity. They were twins but they were not alike. Sarat often heard her mother use the word tomboy to describe her. God gave me two children at once, she said, but only girl enough for one.
 
For a few minutes, after Dana had left, Sarat remained in her parents'' room. She observed with some confusion the thing her sister had smeared all over her lips. Unlike the river and the bush and the beasts and birds of the natural world, the lipstick did not interest her; it held no promise of adventure. She knew it only as a prop in her twin sister''s ongoing obsession with adulthood. Why Dana wished so desperately to join the ranks of the fully grown, Sarat could not understand.

Dana emerged from the house, still draped in her mother''s clothes.

“Didn''t I tell you not to go opening my dresser?” Martina said.

“Sorry, Mama.”

“Don''t sorry me—and pull it up, you''re dragging dirt everywhere.” Martina pulled the dress off her daughter. “I send your sister in to get you, and now you''re out here looking like a mess, and she''s inside probably doing the same.”

“She can''t put makeup on,” said Dana. “She''s ugly.”

Martina knelt down and grabbed her daughter by the shoulders. “Don''t ever say that, you hear me? Don''t ever call her ugly, don''t ever say a bad word about her. She''s your sister. She''s a beautiful girl.”

Dana lowered her head and pouted. Martina cupped her jaw and lifted her head back up.

“Listen to me,” she said. “You go back inside and you tell her. You tell her she''s a beautiful girl.”

Dana stomped back inside the house. She found her sister putting her mother''s lipstick back in the makeup box.

“You''re a beautiful girl,” Dana said, and stormed out the room.

For a moment, Sarat stood dumbstruck. She was a child still and the purpose of a lie eluded her. She couldn''t yet fathom that someone would say something if they didn''t believe it. She smiled.
 
Outside, Martina cooked breakfast on a heavy firewood stove. On the plates and in the bowls there were hard biscuits and sorghum cereal and fried eggs and pepper bacon cooked till crisp in its own fat.

In her slumping cheeks and dark-circled eyes, Martina''s thirty-nine years were plainly visible—more so than in the face of her husband, although he was five years her senior and the two of them had lived half their lives together. She was wide around her midsection but not obese, with an organic rural fitness that made her able, when it was necessary, to lift heavy loads and walk long distances. Unlike her husband, who had sneaked into the country from Mexico as a child, she was not an immigrant. She was born into the place she lived.

“Breakfast!” Martina shouted, wiping the sweat from her brow with a ragged dish towel. “Get over here now, all of you. I won''t say it again.”

Benjamin emerged from behind the house, freshly shaven and showered in the family''s outdoor stall.

“Hurry up and eat before he gets here,” Martina said.

“It''s all right, relax,” her husband replied. “When''s he ever been on time?”

“Where''s your good tie?”

“It''s not a job interview, just a work permit. I''m only going to a government office; no different than the post office.”

“When was the last time people killed one another to get something from a post office?”

Benjamin sat at the table in the yard. He was a lean man with a lean face, his near-touching brows anchoring a smooth, large forehead made larger by setting baldness at the temples. He was at all times clean-shaven, save for a thin black mustache his wife worried made him look unseemly.

He kissed Sarat on the forehead and, when he saw his other daughter, her face smeared with red, kissed her too.

“Your girls been at it again,” Martina said. “Won''t learn manners, won''t do what they''re told.”

Benjamin shook his head at Dana with mock disapproval, then he leaned close to her ear.

“I think it looks good on you,” he whispered.

“Thanks, Daddy,” Dana whispered back.

The family assembled around the table. Martina called out for Simon and soon he came around the front porch, carrying in his hands the recently sawed bottom half of the family''s ten-rung ladder.

Seeing the look on his mother''s face, the eight-year-old blurted, “Dad asked me to do it.”

Martina turned to her husband, who bit happily into the bacon and drank the sour, grainy coffee. It was rancid stuff from the ration packs, designed to keep soldiers awake.

“Don''t look at me like that, Smith needs a ladder,” Benjamin said. “Got new shingles to put up; old ones have all gone to mush.”

“So you''re going to give him half of ours?”

“It''s a fair enough deal, considering he''s the one who knows the man at the permit office. Without him, we may as well try to shoot our way across the border.”

“He''s got enough money to buy himself a million ladders,” said Martina. “I thought you said he was doing us a favor.”

Benjamin chuckled. “A Northern work permit for half a ladder is still a favor.”

Martina poured the last of her coffee in the dirt. “We need to get up and fix our roof just the same as the Smiths,” she said.

“We don''t need any more than a five-rung ladder to do it,” Benjamin replied, “especially now that our own boy''s grown tall and strong enough to get himself up there.”

It was a point with which Simon vehemently agreed, promising his mother he''d climb up regularly to add chlorine to the tank and clean the bird dung from the solar panels, just like his father did.

The family ate together. Benjamin, rail-thin his whole life, inhaled the bacon and eggs with shameless appetite. His son looked on, cataloging his father''s every minute ritual into an ironclad manual of what it means to be a man. Soon the boy too had wiped his plate clean.

 The twins sipped orange juice from plastic cups and picked at their biscuits until their mother softened them with a smear of butter and apricot jam, and then they ate quietly, deep in guarded thought.

Martina watched her husband, her eyes still and silent, a look her children mistook for hardness but her husband knew to be just how she was.

Finally she said, “Don''t tell them nothing about doing any work for the Free Southerners.”

“It''s no secret,” Benjamin replied. “They know full well every man around these parts has done some work for the Free Southerners. Doesn''t mean I picked up a rifle for them.”

“But you don''t have to say it. If you say it then they have to check one of the boxes on the form and take you into another room and ask you all kinds of other questions. And then in the end they won''t give you a permit on account of security reasons or whatever they call it. Just say you work in the shirt factory, that''s not a lie.”

“Quit worrying so much,” Benjamin said, leaning back in his seat and picking the stray meat from between his teeth. “They''ll give us a permit. The North needs workers, we need work.”

Simon interjected, “Why do we need to go to the North? We don''t know anybody up there.”

“They got jobs there,” his mother replied. “They got schools there. You''re always complaining about not having enough toys, enough friends, enough everything. Well, up there they have plenty.”

“Tyler says going to the North is for traitors. Says they should hang.”

Sarat listened intently to the conversation, filing the strange new word in her mind. Traitors. It sounded exotic. A foreign tribe, perhaps.

“Don''t talk like that,” Martina said. “You going to listen to your mother or a ten-year old boy?”

Simon looked down at his plate and mumbled, “Tyler''s dad told him.”

They finished eating and retreated to the porch. Martina sat on the steps and cleaned the lipstick from her daughter''s face with a wet dishrag, the girl squirming and whining. Simon smoothed the ends of the half-ladder with a sandpaper block, putting his whole weight into the job, until his father told him he didn''t have to work it so hard.

Sarat returned to the scene of her morning experiment, poking at the congealed honey thick in the knots of the wood, enthralled by the amber liquid''s viscosity. It fascinated her, how the thing so readily took the shape of its vessel. With her pinky she cracked the crust and tasted a dollop. She expected the honey to taste like wood, but it still tasted like itself.

Benjamin sat on a hickory chair, the weaves of its backrest frayed and peeling. He looked out at the brown, barren river and waited on his patron to arrive.

“Do you know what you''re going to say to them, at the permit place?” Martina asked. “Have you thought it through?”

“I''ll answer what they ask.”

“You got your papers ready?”

“I got my papers ready.”

Martina shook her head and cast an eye out for signs of an incoming boat. “Probably there won''t even be any permits,” she said. “Probably they''ll do what they always do and turn us back. That''s their way, don''t give a damn about nobody south of the Mag line. It like we aren''t human, aren''t animal even, like we''re something else entirely. They''ll just turn you back, I know it.”

Benjamin shrugged. “Do you want me to go or not?”

“You know I do.”

When she was done wiping the lipstick, Martina set to braiding Dana’s hair. It came down in long smooth strands of the deepest black, unlike Sarat''s, which although the same color, was unruly and revolted to fuzz in the humidity.

“You girls know what the best thing about the North is?” she asked.

“What?” Sarat replied.

“Well, you know how at night here it gets so hot you just can''t take it, and you wake up with your sheets all damp with sweat?”

“I hate that,” Dana said.

“Well when you get far enough north, it never gets hot that way. And in the winter, if you go really far north, they don''t even have rain—they have little balls of ice that drop from the sky, and the ground gets all thick with it till you can''t see the roads any more, and the rivers get so cold they turn to solid rock you can walk on.”

“That''s silly,” Dana said. In her mind, these were more of her parents'' elaborate fairy tales, the hardening rivers and falling ice no different than the fish with whiskers that her father said once swam in great schools through the lifeless Mississippi back when it was just a river, or the ancient lizards buried in the deserts to the west, whose remains once powered the world. Dana didn''t believe any of it.

But Sarat did. Sarat believed every word.

“It''s true,” Martina said. “Cool in the summer, cool in the winter. Temperate, they call it. And safe, too. Kids out in the streets playing till late at night; you''ll make friends your first day there.”

Simon shook his head quietly. He knew that even as she talked to the twins, his mother was really addressing him. With everyone else she spoke directly, with no sentimentality or euphemism. But to her only son, whose inner mental workings she feared she would never learn to decipher, she passed messages through intermediaries in weak, obvious code. Simon hated it. Why couldn''t she be like his father, he wondered? Why couldn''t she simply say what she meant?
 

By mid-afternoon, Benjamin''s ride had yet to appear. Soon Martina began to believe her husband had been forgotten. Or perhaps Benjamin''s acquaintance had finally been caught in that old fossil-powered boat of his and had been arrested. It was true that the states surrounding the rebel Red—a cocoon formed by Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina—were deeply sympathetic to the cause of the Free Southern State. And even though residents of these states still required a permit to move north to the real heart of the Blue country, the states were officially members of the Union nonetheless, and a man caught using fossil fuel in these parts was still an outlaw.

 She thought about how much easier it would be for everyone if all these would-be statelets were simply allowed to break free from the Union, to form their own miniature nations along the fault lines of region or creed or race or ideology. Everyone knew there had always been fissures: In the northwest they were constantly threatening to declare the independence of the proud, pacifist Cascadia; below them, so much of California, Nevada, Arizona and west Texas were already under the informal control of the Mexican forces, the map of that corner of the continent slowly reverting to what it was hundreds of years ago. In the Midwest the old-stock nativists harbored a barely restrained animosity toward the millions of coastal refugees who descended onto the middle of the country to escape rising seas and severe storms. And here, in the South, an entire region decided to wage war again, to sever itself from the Union, rather than stop using that illicit fuel responsible for so much of the country''s misfortune.

Sometimes it seemed to Martina that there had never been a Union at all, that long ago some disinterested or opportunistic party had drawn lines on a map where previously there were none, and in the process created a single country fashioned from many different countries. How bad would it really be, she wondered, if the federal government in Columbus simply stopped wasting so much money and blood trying to hold the fractured continent together. Let the Southerners keep their outdated fuel, she thought, until they''ve pulled every last drop of it from the beaten ground.

Martina watched the river and waited for the boat to come. She saw Sarat near the water, inspecting a discarded shrimp net that had washed up on shore a few months earlier; the children had made from it a makeshift trap for river debris. The net collected all manner of strange treasure: an iron cross, a neck-rest from a barber''s chair, a laminated picture of a long-shuttered leper colony, a small sign that read, “Please no profanity in the canteen.”

Sarat inspected the soggy pages of a waterlogged book caught in the net. The book''s title was The Changing Earth. Its cover featured a picture of a huge blue mountain of floating ice. She leafed gingerly through the pages, peeling them from one another. The book was filled with maps of the world, old and new. The new maps looked like the old ones, but with the edges of the land shaved off—whole islands gone, coastlines retreating into their continents. In the old maps America looked bigger.

She saw the shadow of her brother Simon standing behind her. “What is it?” he said, snatching at the book.

“None of your business,” Sarat replied. “I found it first.” She pulled the book away and hopped to her feet, ready to fight him for it if she had to.

“Whatever,” Simon said. “I don''t even want it, it''s just a dumb book.” But she could see him inspecting the open page.

“Do you even know what that is?” he asked.

“It''s maps,” Sarat said. “I know what maps are.”

Simon pointed to a corner of the page where the blue of water seemed to overwhelm a few thin shreds of land on the southern edge of the continent.

“That''s us, stupid,” he said. “That''s where we live.”

Sarat looked at the place on the map where Simon pointed. It looked wholly abstract, in no way reminiscent of her home.

“You see all that water?” Simon said. “That all used to be land, and now it''s gone.” He pointed back in the direction of their house. “And one day this''ll all be water, too. We''ll have to get out of here or else we''ll drown.”

Sarat saw the faint smirk on her brother''s face and knew instantly he was trying to scare her. She wondered why he seemed so obsessed with such tricks, why he so often tried to say things in the hopes of making her react in some fearful or foolish way. He was almost three years older than her, and a boy—a different species altogether. But still she sensed in her brother a kind of insecurity, as though trying to scare her was not some cruel way to pass the time, but a vital means of proving something to himself. She wondered if all boys were like this, their meanness a self-defense.

And anyway, she knew he was a liar. The water would never eat their home. Maybe the rest of Louisiana, maybe the rest of the world, but never their home. Their home would remain on dry land, because that was the way it had always been.

 
Around dusk, Benjamin''s acquaintance, Alder Smith, arrived. He was five hours late. His plywood fishing skiff bobbed softly on the parting water, its outboard motor gurgling and coughing fumes. It was an archaic thing, but still faster and nimbler than the Sea-Toks, whose feeble, solar-fed motors barely beat the current.

It said something to own a vehicle that still ran on prohibition fuel; it spoke not only of accumulated wealth, but of connections, of status.

“Mornin'',” Smith said as he ushered the boat to the foot of the Chestnuts'' land, throwing a loop of nylon around the docking pole. Like Benjamin, he was tall, but boasted broader shoulders and a full head of brown hair made copper by too much time in the sun. Before the war his father owned a dozen fossil-car dealerships between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Those businesses were now long gone but the wealth they bore still lingered, and Smith lived a comfortable life on the other side of the river. Among the families that still dotted the flooded south of Louisiana and Mississippi, he was known as a facilitator, a man who had plenty of friends. He knew Free Southern State government men in Atlanta and the smugglers who ran the tunnels across the Mississippi-Arkansas line; he knew consuls in the federal offices that dotted the tamed and broken parts of the Union-aligned South. He even claimed to know the right-hand men of senators and congressmen in the federal capital in Columbus.

“Mornin'',” Martina replied. “Come on up, we got some sandwiches left, coffee too.”

“Thank you kindly, but we''re already late. Come on, Ben. Blues don''t like waiting.”

Benjamin kissed his wife and children goodbye and stepped inside to kiss the feet of the ceramic virgin. He descended to the river with great care so as to keep from slipping in the clay and dirtying his good pants. He carried with him his old leather briefcase and the half-ladder. His wife watched from the edge of the flat land.

“Dock south and walk into the city,” she told the men. “Don''t let any government people see that boat.”

Smith laughed and started the motor. “Don''t you worry,” he said. “This time next week you''ll be halfway to Chicago.”

“Just be good,” Martina said. “Be careful, I mean.”

The men pushed the skiff from the mud and pointed the hull north in the direction of Baton Rouge. The boat rumbled into the narrowing heart of the great brown river, twin spines of water rising and spreading in its wake.
 

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4.2 out of 54.2 out of 5
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Top reviews from the United States

JohnPrineforPresident
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Seduction of the Blurbs
Reviewed in the United States on June 10, 2019
Once again, I fell prey to the praise of blurbs, and once again, the blurbs are wrong, so very wrong. This is a tremendously failed attempt at writing a novel that should have been so much better; there is great potential in the premise - we all see it, every day, and most... See more
Once again, I fell prey to the praise of blurbs, and once again, the blurbs are wrong, so very wrong. This is a tremendously failed attempt at writing a novel that should have been so much better; there is great potential in the premise - we all see it, every day, and most of us can envision the possibility of the stories inherent in contemporary horrors. This writer took the challenge and did not run with it, barely even crawled with it. Maybe the possibilities are just too overwhelming for any but a superb writer to tackle, and this writer is of mediocre talent to take on these huge themes. This is a dull, plodding read in what should have been a deeply engaging novel. This is no Orwell and no Huxley at work, not even in the same remote territory. Read The Chronicle of Liebowitz by Walter Miller, Dune by Frank Herbert, Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (yes, more relevant than ever, even in 2019), Brave New World by Alduous Huxley or any number of other superb "dystopian" novels that are relevant now and becoming more relevant by the month. If I hadn''t yet again succombed to the glowing seductions of the blurbs ("Best Book of such and such a year or publication or critic!!!) about yet another mediocre (or worse) book that readers whose critiquing abilities are impoverished are pushing, I would not now be regretting the time spent on this book and the money spent to buy it. Somebody, some really good writer, needs to write the book that this book promised - and failed to deliver. This book is not it.
55 people found this helpful
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Barry Campbell
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Speculative, dystopian fiction about a not-too-distant future
Reviewed in the United States on April 8, 2017
"American War" takes place in a late-21st-century America that is a shell of its former self, broken by internal strife, rising seas, extreme weather and bioterrorism. The Second American Civil War isn''t fought over race (these Americans appear to mostly... See more
"American War" takes place in a late-21st-century America that is a shell of its former self, broken by internal strife, rising seas, extreme weather and bioterrorism.

The Second American Civil War isn''t fought over race (these Americans appear to mostly be over racial hangups) but power... specifically, fossil fuels.

The ascendant world powers are Asian and Muslim. In this future, the Muslim "Bouazizi Empire" got popular revolution right on the fifth try, and the Red Crescent is running the refugee camps in the Free Southern States.

And we meet Sarat, the protagonist of the book, at age 6, in a Louisiana that''s mostly underwater, as her parents are starting to talk about getting work permits to move North.

The book is a study of how terrorists are made, and the arc of Sarat''s life, from atrocities in the refugee camp her family fled to, to her recruitment, her successful missions, her capture and torture, and ultimately her awful revenge, have many real-world parallels that aren''t too hard to spot, or intended to be.

Still, the book is deft, entertaining, and provocative. The central conceit of the book can be found in these lines given to Karina, a nurse who emigrated to the US from what was left of Bangladesh after the seas rose:

"...the misery of war represented the world’s only truly universal language. Its native speakers occupied different ends of the world, and the prayers they recited were not the same and the empty superstitions to which they clung so dearly were not the same— and yet they were. War broke them the same way, made them scared and angry and vengeful the same way. In times of peace and good fortune they were nothing alike, but stripped of these things they were kin. The universal slogan of war, she’d learned, was simple: If it had been you, you’d have done no different."

I ripped through this in three days, reading an hour or so longer a night than I had really intended to. Haven''t picked up a piece of fiction that I didn''t want to put down in a while.
159 people found this helpful
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james c moore
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Grim, Well Written Vision of a Bleak Future
Reviewed in the United States on May 7, 2017
This book is about a young woman, Sarat (really, Sarah T), who witnesses the death of members of her family from terrorism and violence resulting from fighting between segments of a broken society. Her story, related by a nephew, takes place 70-80 years in to the future in... See more
This book is about a young woman, Sarat (really, Sarah T), who witnesses the death of members of her family from terrorism and violence resulting from fighting between segments of a broken society. Her story, related by a nephew, takes place 70-80 years in to the future in what remains of the United States. Failure to have arrested the degradation of the climate by the use of fossil fuels has led to violent storms and vast erosion of the landscape. The absence of compromise on political and social issues has led to the breakdown of the union and a new civil war has erupted. The nation is divided in to a large southern state and the north. A Mexican protectorate controls large portions of the former southwestern US states. Washington DC no longer exists and the northern capital has been moved to Columbus, Ohio. Vast refugee camps exist to house the dispossessed and famine and plague loom over society. Meanwhile, a new international power has arisen in what were once the Arab and Ottoman states.

Sarat''s story is of her gradual transformation from a headstrong young woman to something more fearful. Dark and malevolent characters surround and act upon her.

In the end the reader is left with a bleak vision of our future. Rather than hearing an inspiring message that if we only get serious and start paying attention we will make it through these uncertain times, I finished my reading of this book concluding that this is all beyond us and that a grim fate awaits.

The writing is clear, well phrased, and convincing, especially from a new writer. The editing was excellent. The plot was creative and the characters and their dialogue credible. I just wished that I hadn''t finished this book in the middle of the night.

JCM
51 people found this helpful
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Andrea St John
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Worst Book I''ve Read in a Long Time
Reviewed in the United States on March 31, 2019
Honestly, I had to force myself to finish it. When I first hear about this book, I was excited to read it. I loved the concept of a second civil war. This book simply does not deliver. It has no sympathetic characters. The plot is flat and contrived. The author seems to... See more
Honestly, I had to force myself to finish it. When I first hear about this book, I was excited to read it. I loved the concept of a second civil war. This book simply does not deliver. It has no sympathetic characters. The plot is flat and contrived. The author seems to have little notion of American history. If I could give this less than a one star, I would. Don''t waste your money.
26 people found this helpful
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RTM
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Boring Nonsense
Reviewed in the United States on July 8, 2019
Maybe I''m old fashioned, but I expect a novel to be well-written, have a believable plot, and interesting characters who experience some transformative growth. This over-hyped book fails on all of these criteria. The "Civil War" does not make sense, the characters are... See more
Maybe I''m old fashioned, but I expect a novel to be well-written, have a believable plot, and interesting characters who experience some transformative growth. This over-hyped book fails on all of these criteria. The "Civil War" does not make sense, the characters are boring, and the plot is dull, dull. Someday, someone may write a good novel about the impacts of climate change on our world, but this is not it.
16 people found this helpful
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Ronald H. Clark
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A strangely touching novel set among the most horrible violence and destruction
Reviewed in the United States on May 1, 2017
This book turned out to be something entirely different than what I expected from the title. Sure, it is about the second American Civil War, set beginning in 2075, but it is not a novel about battles and war strategy. As the author notes in his prologue, it is not about... See more
This book turned out to be something entirely different than what I expected from the title. Sure, it is about the second American Civil War, set beginning in 2075, but it is not a novel about battles and war strategy. As the author notes in his prologue, it is not about war but about ruin. This is because the focus is upon single family and the disasters it encounters just trying to survive. While the author includes a prologue, it does not really make sense to the reader at the start of the novel because it includes references to things you have not read yet. So still read it at the outset, but to get the full impact, quite considerable, read it after you have completed the book. Then it will really hit you.

This is one of those rare books (especially for me since I don''t read much fiction) that grabs you by your lapels and continues to entrance you long after you have read it. It is strangely poignant and even moving, even though the setting is horrible brutality and destruction. The only other book that so got a grip on me that I recall is Elizabeth Gilbert''s "The Signature of All Things" (that one kept me restless for months). The central character, Sarat, we follow from age six in an America almost completely remade into new designated areas: the U.S. or blues with capital in Columbus, Ohio; the Free Southern State (FSS); and the Mexican Protectorate. The story begins in 2075 and continues until 2095 set mostly in the FSS. The displaced family''s travails--and there are many--are the central focus of the story--but it is always Sarat who is front and center and evolving.

The author uses several devices to keep the story on track: for example, he incorporates various official and private documents which fill out the story and provide a context for what is befalling Sarat. As she grows into new dimensions, she becomes even more fascinating as a character. This climaxes in the final section of the book (pp. 263-333) which is one of the most gripping narratives I can ever recall reading; this is where I found this strange book to be even moving as I read it. But the violence only increases geometrically to an unbelievable conclusion, even as our respect for Sarat grows. Wow!

I have purposely not included hopefully any tip-offs to the story line in detail. This novel is so skillfully constructed that revealing even one secret might cause the whole thing to come undone. The enjoyment lies in reading a book not knowing where you will come out, except with the adult Sarat. The writing is just superior. I recommend it without hesitation, though the violence level is high. But don''t forget to reread the prologue when you are done--I guarantee your emotional temperature will go up many degrees.
45 people found this helpful
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Bob O
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Not what I had hoped for.
Reviewed in the United States on March 15, 2019
Because of what is going on politically in our country right now I truly believe we are on the brink of another Civil War. We certainly don''t have to wait until 2074 for this to happen. I feel that this book did not come even close to developing a story which would make... See more
Because of what is going on politically in our country right now I truly believe we are on the brink of another Civil War. We certainly don''t have to wait until 2074 for this to happen. I feel that this book did not come even close to developing a story which would make this believable.
I agree with others that the author is a good writer, but spent way too much time developing the main character Sarat while leaving a broader more interesting story unattended.
I also found myself quite bored throughout the book and was not able to read another word once I got to chapter 14.
Don''t waist your time and money on this book unless you have read everything else out there that covers the coming of the next civil war in the USA. The direction this country is now headed leads me to believe that the next book written on the subject may be nonfiction.
9 people found this helpful
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Victor E. Smith
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Not a Happy Romp, but Still a Must-Read
Reviewed in the United States on July 24, 2018
A no-holds-barred dystopian novel set towards the end of the 21st century, which features the continuation of the perpetual wars of current times, but in reverse: America, in the midst of a 2nd Civil War, is the third-world nation in disarray while a prosperous... See more
A no-holds-barred dystopian novel set towards the end of the 21st century, which features the continuation of the perpetual wars of current times, but in reverse: America, in the midst of a 2nd Civil War, is the third-world nation in disarray while a prosperous Middle-Eastern empire provides relief habitation, survival supplies, and international leadership.
The author’s handling of the elements of the novel is superb with the overall irony of the plot (the reversal of roles) subtle but inevitable.
American War shakes the finger of disapproval at our national scene on many levels as perhaps only a non-American (El Akkad was born in Egypt, lived in and was a war correspondent for Canada, before moving to the US) is removed enough to see. Recommended reading for anyone who understands why history, if not heeded, is bound to repeat itself until we either get it right or destroy ourselves.
6 people found this helpful
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Top reviews from other countries

KirstyJ
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
An epic future classic of speculative science fiction!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 10, 2018
I bought American War after it''s inclusion on the 2018 Arthur Clarke shortlist for Science Fiction, to be honest it was the least appealing of the six to me initially so I thought I''d tackle it first. I was absolutely gripped. I''m so glad to have had my expectations blown...See more
I bought American War after it''s inclusion on the 2018 Arthur Clarke shortlist for Science Fiction, to be honest it was the least appealing of the six to me initially so I thought I''d tackle it first. I was absolutely gripped. I''m so glad to have had my expectations blown away, set between the mid 2070''s to 2096, this follows a second American civil war that unfolds when southern states vote to leave the union after a bill is passed that aims to eradicate fossil fuels. A friend pointed this out as a potential plot hole when I recommended the book - what about all that southern land they could use for solar panel farms? Well Omar El Akkad''s writing addresses this, with Arab states now uniting into a new world power at the forefront of renewable energy, the threads that ignite this civil war run twist more than just dependence on oil but centuries worth of tension, political assassinations and foreign interference that stoke the flames. Readers will be able to pick out the tensions and attitudes you can observe in present America''s ''Democrat vs Republican'' media circus that ends up dividing citizens in the book''s future timeline. This story revolves around the displacement and refugee status of the Chestnut family amid the start of the war and the slow radicalisation of Sarat Chestnut as the effects of displacement, propaganda and suffering wear the family down. Akkad''s writing shines with his background in journalism and documenting war zones, there is no idealisation in this book but deep mistrust of war, it questions and forces the reader to confront the realities of radicalisation, how young people can be turned into weapons, even when their suffering has come from rebel groups of their own cause. The story is threaded with oral histories of the war between chapters set further into the future in the 2100''s when the nation reflects upon it''s second devastating civil conflict that add an almost biographical historical element to the book. I finished the book within a day, I could not put it down and rushed through the last 70 pages when I woke up the next morning. I''d recommend this to any fan of speculative science fiction, I just hope the rest of the shortlist where I learned about this book is as good as American War.
12 people found this helpful
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Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Superb!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 20, 2020
I''d like to start my review by thanking Joy at Joyous Reads whose blogged review of American War back in April 2018 encouraged me to add this novel to my TBR - and, almost two years later, I''ve finally read it! Why on earth did I wait so long? American War is unbelievably...See more
I''d like to start my review by thanking Joy at Joyous Reads whose blogged review of American War back in April 2018 encouraged me to add this novel to my TBR - and, almost two years later, I''ve finally read it! Why on earth did I wait so long? American War is unbelievably good! American War is one of a select few novels which, for me at least, surpassed the five star rating I have awarded. As I closed the book after reading its final page, I actually had to take a couple of minutes to bring myself back to the present day because I had been so deeply immersed in Sarat''s world that it felt more real to me than my own! El Akkad has brilliantly meshed together the realities of refugees'' smashed lives in every war ever with a chilling portrait of how such desperation can be manipulated by callous men to create radicalised suicidal human weapons. What makes American War so shocking is that, by imagining America ripped apart by a second civil war, El Akkad''s refugees are both Americans themselves and the result of American warfare techniques. This isn''t the USA invading foreign nations in South or Central America, or across the Middle East, but the narrative and actions have such an authentic ring to them because I have already seen these ideas in novels such as Red Birds by Mohammed Hanif and The President''s Gardens by Muhsin Al-Ramli. The concept of The South rising again is wonderfully evocative. The American War storyline is told from a point even further into the future than the events we follow so it reads as rich historical fiction even it is actually science fiction. We glimpse as-yet impossible technologies, but the majority of scenes are set on poverty-stricken Southern lands, all-but destroyed by years of war, or within the crowded tent city that is Patience Refugee Camp, so people are struggling to survive with very little, their only highlights being the monthly Chinese aid shipment. I got a sense of a society which had reached affluent success, but which had now lost everything it had achieved - perhaps similar to present-day Syria? El Akkad has already garnered comparisons with authors such as Cormac McCarthy and, on the strength of his vivid depictions of these grim settings, I would agree that his writing is easily as powerful. I was absolutely steamrollered by American War and will, I think, be enthusiastically recommending this novel to everyone I can find! Superb!
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Peter in Northfield
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A beautiful and sad book
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 26, 2021
The ending was not a surprise but the life of the ''heroine'' was heart-breaking. This is not really a book about America in the future but about the present world: I would not have bought the book if it had been about Palestine or Africa [which reflects my age and...See more
The ending was not a surprise but the life of the ''heroine'' was heart-breaking. This is not really a book about America in the future but about the present world: I would not have bought the book if it had been about Palestine or Africa [which reflects my age and background] but I did buy it being a fan of Sci-Fi and Alt-His. So this book crept up on me, the author fooled me - and I am glad. I thank the author for showing me realities that we ignore all the time - climate change, third-world war and despair, all in the guise of America - and us in the west. It forced me to look at the news again and notice the stories that come far down the play-list. This book will remain with me for a long time and Sarat will stay with me for longer: I cannot like her but my tears for her are real.
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D. James
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Excellent, thought provoking but dark book
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 26, 2019
This is a brilliant, if dark, book. The story is centered around a second American civil war brought on by the effects of climate change and some peoples unwillingness to make changes and to adapt. The main character, Sarat, is a Southener and a refugee displaced by the...See more
This is a brilliant, if dark, book. The story is centered around a second American civil war brought on by the effects of climate change and some peoples unwillingness to make changes and to adapt. The main character, Sarat, is a Southener and a refugee displaced by the fighting and becomes radicalised while in a refugee camp. This is a very interesting and thought provoking twist which mirrors the plight of those caught up in fighting in the middle east currently. I thought this book was really well written and I struggled to put it down. It''s interesting how much it occupied my mind while I wasn''t reading it too, a sure sign of an excellent plot.
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Crofftwerdd
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A second civil war, every bit as bitter as the first
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 24, 2018
This is a brilliantly written book, extremely readable which gives a dystopian view of America after the outbreak of a second civil war in 2074. The fission between north and south this time is caused by the refusal of the south to accept restrictions / ban on the use of...See more
This is a brilliantly written book, extremely readable which gives a dystopian view of America after the outbreak of a second civil war in 2074. The fission between north and south this time is caused by the refusal of the south to accept restrictions / ban on the use of fossil fuels. The central character, a girl named Sarat has her life shaped by the war and the novel deals with the horrific consequences of her witnessing and being part of yet another senseless conflict. Given that the author wrote this before Trump was elected (or even really seriously considered as a candidate for the presidency), the plot is horribly plausible and deals with the result of climate change on the American landscape and its population. This is one of the best novels I have read recently.
3 people found this helpful
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