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The setting is this futuristic war-torn America rooted somewhat in environmental issues, and attempts to shine a light on what could come for us. It made me consider Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 (a 1950's prediction of a time that is NOW), only it's scarier because I believe this could really happen.
I wanted so much more detail in regards to the time period! I was so intrigued in the first few pages with the borders/maps of the United States being altered due to climate and war. I wanted more world building here, with a lot more focus on the differences in the American landscape/geography and the environmental changes and political turmoil that have gone on for 70+ years. In this regard, I felt let down. There is much more focus on the personal life of Sarat then there is of America as a whole. I kept having to remind myself this is a novel, not a nonfiction prediction of our country.
It's clear from the title and the first few pages this is obviously not a happy story. But it is thought- provoking and eye-opening for a fiction novel. I'm craving more about this world that Akkad has set up.
(SPOILER ALERTS THROUGHOUT)
I finished this book in less than a week, and canâ€™t stop thinking about it. Thereâ€™s one quote in particular that haunts me:
â€œThe universal slogan of war, sheâ€™d learned, was simple: If it had been you, youâ€™d have done no different.â€ (p. 184)
What do you guys think? Is that true? If it had been us, would we have done no different?
In some ways, I think Karina (the character I quoted above) becomes a stand-in for the reader. She understands Sarat, she gets where sheâ€™s coming from and why she is the way she is, but sheâ€™s not sympathetic to her. She dislikes her, doesnâ€™t trust her. She openly admits she doesnâ€™t think Sarat is worthy of love, even though she feels sorry for what happened to her, even though she wants her to heal.
I think the reader is meant to feel torn, the way Karina does. Sarat is our protagonist. Weâ€™ve watched her grow up, seen all her strengths and admirable qualities. We know what sheâ€™s been through, and we understand why sheâ€™s become so broken and vengeful.
Should we feel sympathy for her? Or just contempt? Is she a tragic figure? Or an irredeemable mass murderer, responsible for the deaths of over a hundred million people?
Or is she some combination of both? Can her horrific crimes be both unforgivable and understandable at the same time? Can we simultaneously condemn her actions and comprehend them?
If it had been us, would we have done no different?
We like to put people into clear-cut categories: good, evil, hero, villain, patriot, terrorist. What I love about this book is that it blurs all those lines. It forces us to confront the ugly, terrifying question: If it had been you, would you have done no different?
And if the answer to that question is anything other than a resounding no, if we cannot be 100% certain we would have acted very differently than Sarat, then we have to wonder - in that case, who are we to paint our enemies as vile, inhuman monsters? If we might have done the same, had we been in their shoes?
I suspect that, under the right set of conditions, weâ€™re all capable of unspeakable evil. At the very end of A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens wrote, â€œCrush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms.â€ That line has always stuck with me because it rings true. If you subject people to enough horrific suffering, this is what they will become.
It makes perfect sense to me that Sarat - a good, decent person at the start of the novel - became someone who knowingly unleashed a plague that killed multitudes. I would never in a million years excuse that decision. But I do understand it.
If it had been us, would we have done no different?
I think itâ€™s likely, or at least plausible, that we all have the potential to do what Sarat did. To me, this just underscores how counterproductive it is to villainize people like Sarat, and how incredibly important it is to prevent the conditions that produce them.
What do you guys think? Would love to hear other peopleâ€™s thoughts!
I struggled to get through this book. Just not my cup of tea.
I only got about 100 or so pages into this book when I realized I hadn't had the urge to pick it up for like a week. So I'm moving on to my picks from this month.... I may try and read it another time, but should I??? I just couldn't really seem to get into it
Does anyone else think that this book would have been better as a series? Despite the differences in subject matter, I kept thinking of Justin Cronin's "The Passage" trilogy as I made my way through this book. Don't get me wrong - I did wind up thoroughly enjoying the novel by its end, but I felt that there was a richness missing that I craved throughout Sarat's story. I wanted more detail, more development, and more time spent on each stage of her life. The same goes for the other characters in the novel. I think that the story could have easily, and successfully, spanned three books.
Am I the only one who thinks this would make a great movie?!?
Where to begin? I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book, particularly to those who have any interest in politics and/or current events. This novel is very powerful and thought-provoking with many underlying political issues that we are currently experiencing globally. I finished it several days ago and it has been on my mind ever since. The author depicts a situational/futuristic America that can be comparable to the Middle East in todayâ€™s world. It is overwhelming the amount of pain and tragedy the protagonist experiences during the growth of her character, which allows the audience to generate an understanding, if not even have a little empathy, towards extremists at a time of war. There is simply no black or white. I can see how this book wouldnâ€™t be for everyone, but I loved this book.
There is no denying that the author did his research and is a talented author. However, I was very disappointed because I went in expecting this to be far more futuristic than it was. I understand that Sarat was in a war zone, but in my mind I imagined that war would be much more technological- in many parts of this book I felt like we reverted back to the initial civil war. Sure fossil fuel was the basis for the war, and occasionally the solar powered advantages in the North were mentioned- but I really wished for more advances, perhaps I expected the book to be a bit more sci-fi than it was.
That, and the unlikeability of Sarat really made this book drag for me. I had higher expectations overall.
I've been looking forward to American War since I first heard about it, and I was thrilled that it was a BOTM pick. And I did like it -- did not love it, but liked it a lot. There were a few random things that bugged me, though.
I felt like Gaines should have had a bigger role throughout the book -- I felt like he only just barely entered and wasn't mentioned again until nearly the end (and I do agree with how his character ended up). I don't know, perhaps I expected a more obvious indoctrination. But perhaps that's the point -- indoctrination can be more subtle than we expect.
What do you think?
Also, I felt like it was quite detached from most characters until the voice shifted to Benjamin. As soon as that happened, I feel like the book transformed and got a million times better. Prior to that, it kind of reminded me of American Gods by Neil Gaiman -- a story with an interesting plot, but you couldn't read the emotions of a single character.
I've been with book of the month since July and this is the first book I've DNF'd. I just found it boring and slow moving. Not much action going on and I couldn't get into it. I read around 220 pages of it (I know so close) but I just don't care what happens to read the rest. I might just look up spoilers for it and call it good.
Iâ€™m curious how you all interpret the meaning of â€œAmerican War,â€ besides the obvious of the storyâ€™s setting during an American civil war. To me, the title condemns America for its refusal to shift from dangerous fossil fuels to renewable energy - a dependence that created an unstable global environment. In a way, the title paints the US as the main culprit for creating a world wrecked by climate change. No one country can be solely blamed for global warming, but Americaâ€™s history of conquest and thirst for power - recently, for oil - represent the problems that created such inhospitable global conditions. It was this desire for dominance that pitted the North and South against one another, and encouraged other nations to facilitate Americaâ€™s collapse.
Thereâ€™s a lot more I want to say: why the South refused to shift to clean energy; parallels to what Americaâ€™s experiencing in the book to what countries like Syria are experiencing today; among other things. Let me know what you think!
This was my first BOTM. I really enjoyed American War.
I am about a 100 pages on here and not really enjoying the book. I came on here to read what everyone else says and everyone seems to love it and it looks like there is some exciting thing to come (don't forget to post spoiler warnings people!!!). So I'm going to give it a little bit more but if it doesn't get better I have a feeling this could be the first book I DNF since i have joined BOTM back in July.
So I just finished American War. At first, I was a little reluctant to start the novel because I prefer more fantasy and crime based novels. However, at one point, I couldn't put the book down for hours. My thoughts on this novel was that it was so powerful. The book itself was well written and you can vividly see how a young girl is transformed throughout the book, because of the horrible experiences that she encounters. One thing I love about reading a good novel is how it jerks you in a direction when something really good or the opposite, something bad happens. That moment came to me when you learn that Albert Gaines, the one who bestowed so much in a young Sarat, is the very person that caused her so much pain, suffering, and strife in the end. All the while, Joe or Yousef, asking her to release the plague and it was for personal interest only. As a reader, this is definitely one book where you, as a reader, can feel for the characters in the book. I do not usually re-read books that I have read after I put them down, for a while, but this is a book that I could definitely pick back up.
I enjoyed this book. I especially liked the part about Ben Jr and Sarat's relationship. Can someone tell me why Martin and Bud Jr. Baker let Sarat through the border when it was apparent that they may have recognized her as their father's killer? If it was out of forgiveness, why couldn't Sarat do the same? Why do you think she did not save her brother and his wife when it was well within her power to do so? These are just some questions I had as I read it. This book will definitely stay with me for a long time. It was written from a very different perspective.
I enjoyed this book. The part that I found the most thought provoking was the role that Bouazzizi Empire had in the movement of people, perpetuation of violence, and the demise of so many Americans mostly without any awareness of their part in it. The Role that Albert Gaines and Joe played in Sarat's experience and motivation had a huge impact on the entire civil war. It made me think of how much of the civil conflict across the globe is being strategized and manuevered by outside entities seeking to gain from the conflict.
(spoilers included) I was reading this book at a moderate pace (have a habit of reading books too fast but forgetting them 2 weeks later) but as soon as I got to the part where the perspective changed to Benjamin Jr. I could NOT stop reading. I had a feeling that Sarat would never fully heal but I didn't think she would actually release the second plague. At first I was angry with her because I thought she was finding peace within her relationship with her nephew, Benjamin Jr.. After I finished the book, I understood that it couldn't have ended any other way - she had to do what she felt she had to do. This was such an absorbing read, I'm sure it'll stick with me for a long time.
Really looking forward to reading everyone else's opinion!
I am LOVING this novel. I'm over halfway through, but keep getting distracted with this thought: is the North ACTUALLY the "bad guy" or are we meant to sympathize with a person born on the wrong side of the war (Sarat) experiencing the atrocities of wartime? It seems to me like this is a repeat of the first Civil War aka the South wrongfully stuck in their old ways (slavery --> fossil fuels). I keep wanting to know what life in the North is like and if they're actually evil or that's just the perspective we're seeing. Thoughts?
This is only my second month with Book of the Month and my mind is blown. In my opinion, this is a must read for 2017 because Akaad paints a world in which our position is switched with the Middle East (which is quite relevant to today for obvious reasons). Now, we Anericans are the ones being displaced due to war, we Americans are not advancing because of the instability, and extremism is breeding here, in America. This book gives the reader a different perspective on the tragedies of modern war.
Sarat is the protagonist, but I really don't feel like she is a good character or person at all. I disliked her character and (SPOILER) when she decided to carry the sickness into the North, I was flat out mad at her. She seemed to be healing, but did not allow herself to build the personal strength to refuse to kill everyone, and this was very frustrating as the reader.
I did personally love the narrator. I was so confused when the novel switched to 1st person, but it was a really cool stylistic twist to make the omniscient narrator a character-and pretty much the only completely good person in the book.
If you are thinking my thoughts are jumbled as I write this, it's because this book did just that to me-it jumbled my thoughts. It haunted me, it made me question, and it made my brain run in a thousand different directions.
This isn't something I would normally have picked out to read, but I'm glad I did! I flew through it in 2 days just because it was so interesting and it held my attention well (obviously). It was very thought provoking, and though I'm not hardcore into history (war knowledge) or politics, it was still easy enough for me to follow. I loved that there were interviews and current event type passages between the chapters of the main story to give the reader an idea of what was going on as a whole rather than just through Sarat's eyes. I wondered a little bit about the absence of technology...did the storms and state of the nation just sort of wipe out the advancement of technology?