A new dystopia looms ahead

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From Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World to George Orwell’s 1984, dystopian literature has always proved to be successful in capturing people’s imagination. These days, it has even become part of the pop culture that many novels, such as The Hunger Games and the Divergent series, have been made into popular Hollywood movies that have earned millions of dollars.

Omar El Akkad’s new book, American War, is a recent example of a dystopian novel that explores the possibility of a turmoil caused by the wars in this century, particularly in the United States. Similarly, Kuwaiti author Saud Al Sanousi also imagined in his latest book, Mama Hissa’s Mice, a future war-torn Kuwait as a result of regional sectarian conflicts.

Although we might disagree with their premises, we can all agree that these novels discuss real issues that otherwise cannot be discussed openly. They can come as a wake-up call for us. After all, we live in a world that inspires such scenarios.

When you wade into the ever-agitated waters of social media, you realize just how quickly the currents of infectious bile are flowing. Follow the tributaries of today’s political combat a few decades into the future and you might arrive at something as terrifying as Omar El Akkad’s debut novel, “American War.” Across these scarred pages rages the clash that many of us are anxiously speculating about in the Trump era: a nation riven by irreconcilable ideologies, alienated by entrenched suspicions. But in El Akkad’s dystopian vision, those differences have led, once again, to secession and internecine warfare.

The mainspring of this imagined future clash is not race and slavery, but science and the environment. We learn that as climate change ravaged the Earth, intelligent societies abandoned fossil fuels, but the South clung to its peculiar institution and kept pumping, excavating and burning. As El Akkad tells it, that act of rebellion called down the North’s wrath, which, when the novel opens, has sparked devastating biological weapons attacks that have reduced the United States to a fractured third-world power.

That’s the challenge “American War” poses as we consider how to break the cycles of vengeance spiraling around our own era.

 

 

 

 

 

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