Skip to main content

An American Story by Christopher Priest (Books 2021, 18)

It was strangely timely that I decided to start reading this a few days before the 9/11 anniversary, since it concerns a man’s obsession with what happened on 9/11. The narrator is a journalist who lost his partner in the attacks. Except her name doesn’t appear on any passenger manifest, and there are multiple mysteries around the whole event.

As there are in real life. But this story takes place in a slightly altered reality. Scotland already has its independence, and England — or at least the little we see of London — has become increasingly dystopian, plagued by militarised police and surveillance.

The action switches back and forth in location between the Isle of Bute (where Priest also lives) and various pars of the USA (and sometimes those places are oddly coterminous). And also jumps around in time, from the present of the story — roughly 2017-8, when it was written and published — to before and during the 11th of September 2001, to various points between the two. It even dips a few years into the future.

It touches on ideas and discussions that are considered the domain of conspiracy theories, but largely avoids going down those rabbit holes. As one review I read said, ‘Conspiracy theories purport answers, often paranoid and outlandish; An American Story is about questions.’

It’s well worth a read, though there a couple of threads that he starts and leaves hanging, that I think would have been interesting to follow.

I usually forget to link to the books I write about. Here we are.

You can sign up below if you’d like to get these posts by email

Email: Name (optional):

More details, and other ways to get posts, here.