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.
“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)
“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
“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.”
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.