Hardback fiction / 7th September 2017 / £14.99 / 9781509852192
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 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
Omar El Akkad is an award-winning journalist and author who has travelled 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 Guantanamo Bay, the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt and the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Missouri. He is a recipient of a National Newspaper Award for investigative reporting and the Goff Penny Memorial Prize for Young Journalists, as well as three National Magazine Award honorable mentions. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
More information: Omarelakkad.com / facebook.com/omar.akkad / twitter.com/omarelakkad
Selected international praise
‘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
‘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.’ LA 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 . . . El Akkad demonstrates a profound understanding of the corrosive culture of civil war.’ The Washington Post
‘A gripping plot and an elegiac narrative tone.’ Boston Globe
‘El Akkad’s debut novel transports us to a terrifyingly plausible future... Part family chronicle, part apocalyptic fable, American War is a vivid narrative of a country collapsing in on itself, where political loyalties hardly matter given the ferocity of both sides and the unrelenting violence that swallows whole bloodlines and erodes any capacity for mercy or reason. This is a very dark read; El Akkad creates a world all too familiar in its grisly realism’ Publishers Weekly
‘El Akkad has created a brilliantly well-crafted, profoundly shattering saga of one family’s suffering…American War is a gripping, unsparing, and essential novel for dangerously contentious times.’ Booklist
‘El Akkad’s astounding, gripping and eerily believable novel . . . masterful. Both the story and the writing are lucid, succinct, powerful and persuasive.’ Toronto The Globe and Mail
‘A dystopian vision . . . cannily imagined . . . But above all, El Akkad’s novel is an allegory about present-day military occupation’ Kirkus Reviews
‘A plausible, terrifying chronicle of the fracture and subsequent annihilation of the US… A thrillingly complex adventure that moves from the American south to Alaska and on to the Middle East and North Africa… At its heart and most movingly, the novel also becomes a coming-of-age narrative about how easily a curious child faced with horror and powerlessness can transform into a weapon intent on obliteration. As we learn at the end of the prologue, “This isn’t a story about war. It’s about ruin”’ The Australian
'The book that I found the most haunting this year. . . The premise is harrowing, the prose is stark and beautiful, the plotting is impeccable, and there’s something utterly heartbreaking in El Akkad’s subtle rendition of the ways in which war shapes the human soul.' Emily St John Mandel in The Millions
‘American War is a thought experiment in the form of a dystopian novel . . . The dramatic narrative takes us through the key events in Sarat’s life, while intercutting excerpts from various documentary sources that give us background and insight into the bigger political picture. A detailed world is constructed . . . American War asks us to imagine the uncomfortable.’ The Toronto Star
‘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
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