I thought this book sounded interesting when I first heard of it a little while ago. Then it started showing up on a few recommended reading lists that I follow. I was surprised not just by the number of recommendations but from where they came. As a military person, I read some military blogs, one such blog is called ‘From the Green Notebook.” The green notebook is a ubiquitous tool used by leaders in the military as a planner and notepad and the blog is mostly about leadership. I digress. Early this summer, ‘From the Green Notebook’ published an article called “The Ultimate 2018 Summer Reading List.” That reading list was comprised of recommendations from distinguished folks from the military community. Two of the ten-ish recommendations were for American War and the author offered his own recommendation as well. The two who suggested American War were:
Admiral (RET) James Stavridis, Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University
Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO of New American Foundation and author of The Chessboard & The Web
I knew of Admiral Stavridis for two reasons. One he was a commander of forces in Europe and thus was all over the commercials on the Armed Forces Network during one of my deployments. The second reason was that his name was floated as a possible VP or cabinet member for Secretary Clinton during the 2016 election. Again, I digress, on to the book.
This book is terrifying in it’s realistic and believable interpretation of a dystopian future. It takes place from 2074-2095 and is told from the perspective of one person. It includes anecdotal references and “original sources” from the era in between chapters that explain much of the world in that era and how it got there. The South fought the North again, climate change destroyed Florida, and Mexico annexed a large part of the United States which, for all intents and purposes, no longer exists.
I found American War terrifying for a few reasons. One, everything seems like a natural, worst-case extension of every conflict affecting the United States today. This book is completely believable to the point where it is feasible. Two, it follows one person and her family and starts when she is six. I have reached the point in my life where I know understand how people can cry at commercials and I’m more concerned by people who can’t see that than those who do. I like to think that is personal growth but irrespective of that, this book hits very close to home for me. I have a family of a similar size and when I read stories, fiction or non, about the terrible things some families endure, it affects me deeply. This book did that to me and even when I saw through the foreshadowing, it still hurt.
American War is an outstanding book BUT…. it is not what I consider a summer read. It should be read but unless you wanted chills at the beach or to cry at the pool, read it at home, cuddled up and do whatever it takes to keep it from coming to pass. Register to vote!