Book Review: American War – A Novel


Omar El Akkad is a Canadian/Egyptian journalist who has worked in Afghanistan, Egypt, Guantanamo Bay among other places. He has taken his experiences and imagined if much of what he saw occurred in the USA and not the Middle East. He sets the second American Civil War in the years 2075-2095. Climate change and rising seas has wiped out the population centers on the east and west coast, Florida is gone and people have moved inland, causing much strife. The states of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina have been cut off from the rest of the country. Violent storms, drought, and biological warfare have wiped out modern advancements in our society. That is one of his messages, that war and conflict push back societies back in time. He applies things he has seen in the Middle East during his reporting and moved them to the USA. There are refugee camps, suicide bombers being radicalized by elders, drones, etc. The Middle Eastern countries have united into the Bouazizi Empire, and they act to keep the American Civil War going, meanwhile, living in a comfortable, well-functioning economy.

Another of the points I think El Akkad is trying to get across, is that with the same conditions as countries like Afghanistan, Palestine, etc., Americans would act as they do there today. Human nature is the same everywhere. He was trying to show how people become radicalized and the damage that detention camps like Guantanamo have on people.

It is a good story and I wanted to read it to the end. I won’t give away plot details, but for me, it was a page-turner. I thought some of the premises¬†were a bit unbelievable, however, the story made me consider what impact climate change will have on us and the strong political divisions currently in our nation.