Book Review: American War by Omar El Akkad

Country: Egypt

American War is a story about the complete destruction of an individual as a result of radicalization. At first, I thought the book was about the realities of the dystopia it is set in: climate change driven displacement of families, civil war, an incurable lab-synthesized plague. But through the pages, we see the slow and steady radicalization of Sarat Chestnut leading to her eventual destruction.

American War depicts a dystopia in which the US is divided again, this time along the lines of fossil fuel use. Disaster caused by climate change has struck the US, and as a result, fossil fuels have been banned. The Southern states of South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Texas, are not happy with this decision and secede, which leads to a civil war.

We meet the Chestnuts who are planning to move to the North, leaving their Louisiana home behind. Sarat gets radicalised, which eventually leads her to the Guantanamo-esque Sugar Loaf facility. The torture she undergoes leads her to confess to the trumped-up charges brought against her.

The book was a bit tedious in the beginning but half-way through it really picked up the pace. The reversals of the political fates in the US and Europe is a bit pedantic. We have chaos and war in the US and mass migration out of Europe, whilst peace and prosperity the Middle East and North Africa.

At first I had decided to read an Egyptian classic, but then I came across this book at a used book store and changed my mind. Although the author currently lives in Canada he was born in Egypt. Besides I though that this perspective on climate change and the future of the US would make for an interesting read.

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