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Book Review: Our War

Our War--Craig DiLouie

  • Title: Our War
  • Author: Craig DiLouie
  • Series: None
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Publishing Date: August 20th, 2019
  • Publishing Co.: Orbit
  • Length: 400 pages
  • Format: Kindle, Audiobook, Paperback, Hardcover
  • Acquired: Given free Netgalley copy in exchange for an honest review
  • Amazon LinkOur War

A prescient and gripping novel of a second American civil war, and the children caught in the conflict, forced to fight.

Our children are our soldiers.

After his impeachment, the president of the United States refuses to leave office, and the country erupts into a fractured and violent war. Orphaned by the fighting and looking for a home, 10-year-old Hannah Miller joins a citizen militia in a besieged Indianapolis.

In the Free Women militia, Hannah finds a makeshift family. They’ll teach her how to survive. They’ll give her hope. And they’ll show her how to use a gun.

Hannah’s older brother, Alex, is a soldier too. But he’s loyal to other side, and has found his place in a militant group of fighters who see themselves as the last bastion of their America. By following their orders, Alex will soon make the ultimate decision behind the trigger.

On the battlefields of America, Hannah and Alex will risk everything for their country, but in the end they’ll fight for the only cause that truly matters – each other. 

First Chapter Challenge: 3% of the total novel

In this first chapter, we meet Hannah, a 10-year-old girl living with her mother in a camp during the current American civil war. The war has destroyed the stereotypical American life. Now, everyone is living in terror with meager supplies to live on. Even so, the people are attempting to keep their humanity close, forming groups and communities with others to not only live and survive beside, but also to enjoy life with. However, this entire image of making something out of nothing, of finding enjoyment and love even through the worst of times, is shattered when Hannah’s mother is shot dead in the street at the end of the chapter.

I am shocked. Shell-shocked. The violence is so sudden and final, that I don’t know how to even deal with it. It looks like we readers have no cushion with this novel, instead we are thrown right into the dirtiness of America’s current climate in this dystopia. I have no idea what’s going to happen next, or even how Hannah will learn to survive on her own… She’s just a small little girl! How can anyone, let alone a child with no one, survive such a war?

Final Judgment: 4 Stars out of 5

Trigger Warning: Adult language and content as well as graphic images/violence

In this dystopian America, eerily similar to our own present time of 2019, a civil war is raging between the liberals and conservatives. The President was convicted of crimes and the Senate attempted to remove him from office; Marsh had different plans, however. He refused to leave his presidency, and the country exploded into kill or be killed. Now, there are hundreds if not thousands of individual militias, barely held together around either the Senate or the President’s cause and fighting for their belief. Hannah Miller, a 10-year-old girl stuck in the middle of Indy with no one to help her must find a way to survive this war. She finds help with the Free Woman, a militia fighting on the liberal side. Unfortunately, her older brother Alex is fighting on the opposite side, due to unfortunate circumstances. Will they ever meet in battle? If they do, will their individual sides rip them apart or can they make peace with each other, and thus with the other side?

“In the end, people use their cause to justify doing almost anything. They dehumanize themselves and the enemy. They end up doing horrible things and thinking it’s normal. (Loc 5408)

The world building of this novel is absolutely stunning. From the get-go there is so much description of this new America, so much so that I barely recognize the country I know as home. No longer is America a land full of opportunity and safety–No, this America is full of mortars, snipers, and hidden IEDs. This America is dangerous. This America has spiraled back down into an almost third-world category. People are calorie counting now, not to lose weight, but to hopefully stretch their rations to last the week before they starve. Cell phones and computers have become obsolete, Americans instead using their one-hour of electricity to cook food or heat up their measly living quarters. Parks are littered with tents, sentries posted throughout as so many militias set up base in the middle of the city. America is a war zone.

The militiawoman groaning from a gut shot wound, was she a housewife, a bank teller, a CEO? The twentysomething with his hand blown off, did he have big dreams, a girlfriend, savings for his first home? The war had erased everything and reset it to zero. It had reduced everyone to perpetrator, victim, or both. (Loc 1400)

Going along with this, Craig DiLouie shocks us with violence seemingly on every page. There is no standing still in Indy or taking your time; to do such is to die. Snipers could be on any roof, bombs could explode anywhere. The enemy could be watching you. DiLouie does an amazing job building up this suspense that the characters feel living in Indy, always on high alert, always expecting something horrible to happen at any moment. In fact, we readers become so accustomed to the blood and death that our characters experience, that we become almost desensitized to it. It becomes our new normal for this new America. And I think that this is exactly what DiLouie was going for. Because for the characters, this is their new normal, this is what they get to live through every day. It is a sad fact that we can adapt to something so tragic, so easily.

On the same par with world building, the character building is also phenomenal, especially with the character who holds my heart: Hannah. We first see her as this innocent and naive little girl, someone we wouldn’t believe could survive on her own. She is such a child, depicted through her thoughts, actions, and even words. But as the novel progresses, we see her grow up. In just a few short days/weeks, this small 10-year-old becomes an adult. I am still marveling at her transformation from the beginning of the novel to the end. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just leave it at that, but as you read, keep track of how Hannah thinks and acts! You’ll be stunned as well. Fighting in a war can really age a person, especially a child.

He itched to shoot something. He wanted more chaos. Violence seemed to be the key to unlocking everything in this new world. Hate, meanwhile, was the key to violence. (Loc 2727)

The writing style of the novel itself was interesting. At times it seemed a little slow and monotonous with too much dawdling in seemingly trivial matters. There are multiple POVs–between Hannah, Alex, the UN agent Gabrielle, and the reporter Aubrey–and each looks into its individual character, as well as the various political factors circulating their life. It was interesting to see the government from a much more direct perspective through the UN and the reporter than how Hannah and Alex see the troubles. It definitely helped me to keep up with the politics of what exactly was going on at what times, and how the civil war was actually affecting America and its government/police forces. However, the bits with Aubrey and Gabrielle were also slightly slow. They tended to be more of an info dump, and less emotionally triggering than when I saw through the eyes of Hannah and Alex. Perhaps this is what made the novel a bit too slow for me–I wanted more action, more of Hannah and Alex’s plights. Or perhaps it was simply the fact that there were soooooo many chapters! They were very short and thus plentiful, and I think that tripped me up a bit. It would have made the novel go faster if the chapters had been longer, at least for me.

I also was a bit underwhelmed with the ending. It seemed to really just peter out, and I was much more of a passive bystander than actually within the novel, as I had been for most of the rest of the novel. It also seemed to go a bit too long and wrapped up the novel a bit too nicely. But perhaps that’s just me, because I enjoy stretching my own imagination as to what happens after the ending.

War ground down the spirit, normalized horror, and destroyed permanence. But it also created strong bonds among those who survived it. (Loc 4550)

Overall, I thought this novel was phenomenal. It was a bit scary how many parallels I could draw from this dystopia and our own real America, but that definitely added to the suspense and emotion of the story. The character building and world building were amazing, the multiple POVs gave us further insight into the world and its characters, and I was emotionally invested in the story itself. I had just a few issues with the technical part of the novel, but otherwise, it was a great read! I would definitely recommend it! Hopefully those who read it may gain enlightenment about our own political climate in America right now.

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