AMERICAN WAR is a dystopian novel set in the no-longer-United States between 2075- 2095 — a time when “the planet turned on the country and the country turned on itself.” Through the life of Sarat Chestnut readers learn that climate change has won, wiping out whole cities and turning once inhabitable places uninhabitable.
It would be enough to contend with, and in other parts of the globe it serves as a unifier — the Middle East successfully combats extremism and turns into a powerful empire. Stateside, however, the argument over fossil fuels rages on, prompting a civil war.
Sarat, a southerner, is not raised by a radical — when pushed to pick a side, her mother says, “We’re a family … we’re nothing else” — but the realities of living in a war zone quickly overshadow any memories from Sarat’s youth. Angry and daring and passionate, Sarat is recruited by southern rebels trained to identify vulnerable targets.
Early on in the book, Sarat’s mother has a thought about a nemesis that comes to describe her daughter: “Stay mean if you want to … cling to that tiny piece of power you think you have.” Because ultimately that’s what Sarat is in it for, the power, not the cause. She becomes increasingly flippant about the value of life. “What was safety, anyway, but the sound of a bomb falling on someone else’s home?”
The writing is phenomenal; the story is compelling; the premise is terrifying. Let’s hope that while Omar El Akkad can spin a good yarn, he is in no way a psychic.
After working for years in technology, Abby turned to writing, and in 2017 her debut novel, I LIKED MY LIFE, was published by St. Martin’s Press. She’s also a human rights advocate, and when she’s not busy watching “the comedy show that is her children,” she manages to find time for one of her favorite activities, reading. Visit Abby’s website.