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Welcome to the audiobook review of “American War” by Omar El Akkad, a captivating and thought-provoking dystopian tale that explores the consequences of civil war and environmental disasters on the United States. In this review, we will delve into the various aspects of the audiobook, including the author’s background, plot summary, narration and production value, character development, themes and social commentary, plot and pacing, emotional impact, critical reception and awards, and comparison to other popular dystopian novels. We will also provide a final recommendation on whether “American War” is worth listening to.

Throughout this review, the author’s expertise in journalism is evident, as he uses his unique talents to create an immersive world that both entertains and educates. Whether you are an avid audiobook listener or a first-time user, this review will provide valuable insights into the audiobook production and offer a compelling reason to add “American War” to your must-listen list.

About the Author, Omar El Akkad

Omar El Akkad is an award-winning Canadian author and journalist. He was born in Egypt and grew up in Qatar before moving to the United States to pursue a career in journalism. El Akkad has reported on some of the world’s major conflicts, including the war in Afghanistan and the Arab Spring in Egypt. He has served as a national and international correspondent for The Globe and Mail, where he covered the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States, the NATO-led mission in Libya, and the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba.

In addition to his journalism work, El Akkad is also a celebrated novelist. His debut novel, “American War,” was published in 2017 and quickly became a critical and commercial success. The novel was a finalist for the 2018 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, the 2017 Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction, and the 2018 Folio Prize. It was also longlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and named a “Best Book of the Year” by several publications, including The Washington Post, The Guardian, and NPR.

El Akkad’s writing has been praised for its nuanced exploration of complex themes and its ability to resonate with readers on an emotional level. His journalism background has also proven invaluable in his fiction work, as he brings a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of the world’s many conflicts to his storytelling.

“American War is…deeply unsettling, but also absolutely necessary.” – The Guardian

Synopsis of “American War”

Set in a future version of the United States, “American War” by Omar El Akkad explores the devastating consequences of a second American Civil War, ignited by a controversial ban on fossil fuels. Sarat Chestnut, a young girl from Louisiana, witnesses the horrors of war firsthand and becomes drawn into the resistance movement. Along the way, she must confront difficult moral choices and navigate a world where no one can be trusted. As the conflict spreads across the country, Sarat finds herself at the center of a swirling storm that threatens to destroy not only her but also her family and everything she holds dear.

“American War” is a powerful and deeply moving novel that forces readers to confront the grim realities of war and the price that individuals and societies must pay for their actions. Through the eyes of Sarat Chestnut and other characters, El Akkad paints a vivid picture of a dystopian future that is all too possible. The novel is a warning about the dangerous path that humanity is currently on and an urgent call to action. Readers will be left breathless by this gripping and emotionally charged tale that is as relevant today as it ever was.

Narration and Production Value

One of the most significant factors in evaluating an audiobook is its narration quality. It can enhance or detract from the listening experience, impacting the listener’s engagement and understanding of the story. In the case of “American War,” the narration is excellent and adds depth to the already compelling plot.

The narrator, Dion Graham, brings the characters to life with his expressive and nuanced performance. He reads with the appropriate tone and pace, immersing the listener in the world of the story. Graham’s voice is clear, and his dialogue delivery is impeccable, making it easy to distinguish between characters. All of these aspects combine to create an engaging and enjoyable listening experience.

Beyond the narration, the production value of the audiobook is also noteworthy. The sound quality is excellent, with no noticeable background noises or technical glitches. Furthermore, the audiobook features ambient sounds and music that add to the mood and tension of the story. Together, the narration and production quality make it clear that a great deal of care and attention went into the creation of this audiobook.

Character Development and Worldbuilding

One of the standout elements of “American War” is its rich character development and in-depth worldbuilding. Akkad’s skillful writing creates characters that are both complex and relatable. Sharply drawn protagonist Sarat Chestnut is a prime example of this, her motivations and actions shaped by the world around her.

Additionally, the world in which the characters live is detailed and believable, a dystopian United States fractured by war. The story is set in various locations, including refugee camps, a deserted island, and even a destroyed Washington, D.C. Each location is vividly depicted, adding depth and realism to the story.

The Washington Post praised the book’s ability to balance characterization and worldbuilding, stating that “Akkad skillfully builds empathy for all sides while keeping his narrative taut and tense.” This tight balance of personal and political themes drives the story forward and results in a fully realized world and cast of characters.

Character Analysis

Character Name Attributes Development
Sarat Chestnut Determined, Traumatized, Idealistic Transforms from a young girl to a hardened revolutionary leader
Nurse Empathetic, Wary, Experienced Supportive of Sarat despite her doubts and fears
Benjamin Chestnut Wise, Wounded, Noble Shapes Sarat’s political beliefs and sacrifices himself for the cause

The above table highlights the strengths and evolution of some of the key characters in “American War”. Each character is deeply explored, adding layers of complexity and nuance to the story. Their motivations and actions have a meaningful impact on the narrative, resulting in a thoroughly engaging listening experience.

Themes and Social Commentary

One of the most striking aspects of “American War” is the way in which it tackles themes that are relevant to contemporary American society. From climate change, refugee crises, political polarization, and the role of media in shaping public opinion, this book offers thought-provoking insights on the complex issues that plague our world today.

Central to the book’s message is the devastating impact of war on civilians, particularly on vulnerable populations who bear the brunt of conflict. The novel highlights the plight of refugees, exploring the inhumane treatment of those displaced and the political ramifications of ignoring their suffering.

Another major theme is the danger of groupthink and blind loyalty, reflected in the politics of the novel’s dystopian world. Through the eyes of its protagonist, the reader witnesses how propaganda and dogma can be used to manipulate individuals and erode their ability to think critically about the world around them.

social commentary

“As long as the mind is a weapon, the gun you hold remains irrelevant.”

The book’s message is reinforced through its social commentary, which is delivered with the subtlety and nuance that is the hallmark of great dystopian literature. Through the lives of its characters, “American War” challenges readers to reexamine their own beliefs and values, and to confront the uncomfortable truths that are often hidden beneath the surface of our society.

Plot and Pacing

The plot of “American War” is thought-provoking and emotionally charged. The story follows the life of Sarat Chestnut, a young girl living in a United States torn apart by a second civil war that breaks out in 2074. The book’s plot structure is centered around Sarat’s journey, alternating between past and present events that contribute to her transformation into a revolutionary fighter. The author, Omar El Akkad, skillfully interweaves different subplots that enrich the story, such as the role played by the media or the impact of environmental disasters on the warring factions.

Regarding pacing, this audiobook’s narrative engages the reader from beginning to end. The pace of the story is not breakneck, but it is also not slow enough to cause boredom. The book’s pacing mirrors the gritty and unpredictable nature of war, which contributes to its believability. Episodes of action, suspenseful moments, and contemplative interludes are expertly balanced throughout the book.

“The plot of ‘American War’ is thought-provoking and emotionally charged.”

Plot Structure

The plot of “American War” evolves following a traditional story arc, as Sarat’s character development mirrors her setbacks and triumphs. However, the author also uses flash-forwards and flashbacks to impact the pacing of the story’s developments. By inserting scenes that give context to moments that Sarat has experienced, the reader obtains a more in-depth understanding of her motivations, trauma, and values.

Pacing and Mood

The pacing of the audiobook creates an immersive sense of urgency and turmoil. The listener can hear the emotional and physical struggles of the characters, which goes beyond just the dialogue. The mood is tense but also contemplative, and the book’s pacing keeps the listener interested in the story. The intervals between action scenes, for example, allow for the listener’s attention to be focused on understanding the world and its characters fully.

Emotional Impact and Engagement

One of the most remarkable aspects of “American War” as an audiobook is its powerful emotional impact. The story’s dystopian setting and themes elicit strong feelings of empathy and hope, as well as despair and anger, creating a complex and compelling listening experience.

The engaging narration by Dion Graham adds to the emotional depth of the story. His skilled performance brings the characters to life and draws the listener into the world of “American War”. The production value is also top-notch, with high-quality sound effects and music enhancing the overall listening experience.

The emotional impact and engagement of “American War” as an audiobook make it a must-listen for fans of dystopian literature and anyone seeking a thought-provoking and resonant story.

Critical Reception and Awards

“American War” has received widespread critical acclaim since its publication in 2017. The novel was a finalist for the prestigious 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, and was also shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the James Tait Black Prize.

Critics praised the novel for its stunning prose, thoughtful social commentary, and complex characters. The New York Times called it “a powerful and disturbing vision of a future United States,” while The Guardian hailed it as “a hauntingly written and wholly original work of speculative fiction.”

The audiobook version of “American War” also received praise for its narration and production value. Narrator Dion Graham brought the characters to life with his emotional performance, and the production quality was top-notch.


Award Year Result
Pulitzer Prize in Fiction 2018 Finalist
Arthur C. Clarke Award 2018 Shortlisted
James Tait Black Prize 2017 Shortlisted

Overall, “American War” has received high praise and recognition for its outstanding writing and thought-provoking themes.

Comparison to Other Dystopian Novels

While “American War” shares many similarities with other dystopian novels, there are also several unique elements that set it apart from the rest. One of these is the book’s setting, which is firmly situated in the United States, as opposed to a more fantastical or abstract realm. The novel’s world is also incredibly well-developed, with attention paid to the political and social intricacies that have led to the American Second Civil War.

In terms of style and tone, “American War” is often compared to “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood. Both books are set in bleak, oppressive societies and center around the struggles of their female protagonists. However, “American War” takes a more direct, action-oriented approach, while “The Handmaid’s Tale” is more introspective and character-driven.

Table: Comparison of “American War” to Other Dystopian Novels

Dystopian Novel Similarities Unique Elements
1984 by George Orwell Focus on government surveillance and control Less emphasis on personal relationships and character development
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins Oppression by a central government force More fantastical elements and emphasis on violence
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley Exploration of societal conformity and manipulation Less violent and more focused on technological advancements

Overall, “American War” stands out for its ability to draw the reader into a believable and fully-realized dystopian world while also maintaining a gripping plot and engaging characters. Its unique perspective and focus on American politics and society also make it a noteworthy contribution to the dystopian genre.


Overall, “American War” by Omar El Akkad is a thought-provoking and powerful dystopian tale that lingers in the mind long after the audiobook has ended. The captivating narration and high production value enhance the experience, while the deeply developed characters and immersive worldbuilding create a fully realized and believable setting for the story.

The themes and social commentary explored in “American War” are particularly noteworthy, as they touch on timely and often controversial topics that are both relevant and impactful. The plot pacing is well-done, expertly balancing moments of tension and action with quieter introspective moments that allow the listener to connect with the characters on a deeper level.

Ultimately, I highly recommend “American War” as an audiobook for anyone who enjoys dystopian fiction, political thrillers, or simply a well-crafted and emotionally engaging story. With critical acclaim and numerous awards under its belt, this audiobook is a must-listen for any serious reader or listener.

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