Our War by Craig DiLouie is a novel about a civil war that breaks out when a corrupt president refuses to leave office after impeachment.
Few people would debate that we live in a divided country. The argument isn't about whether or not we are divided, the argument revolves around who is at fault.
Our War imagines a world where our current political unrest spills over into physical violence. What happens when it's not about sharing snarky memes that differ only in whether the insulting words are plastered over a picture of Donald Trump or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? What happens when people start fighting their battles with that gun they keep in the basement and meticulously polish?
People start getting killed is what happens.
Our War follows the trajectory of several characters through a modern US civil war. We get to know a brother and a sister who become child soldiers, a military trained right wing zealot, a journalist, and a representative from UNICEF who gets to decide where the international aid goes.
That's right, in Our War, the US is reduced to scrambling for help from abroad. And when child soldiers are involved, that aid can get cut off fast.
That's what happens when the real world turns into a hostile Facebook argument where everyone wants to get in the last word.
The thing that stands out most in Our War is that the main result of the chest thumping and political posturing is that the children suffer.
Adult men are just as terrified by war as anyone else, but there's also something exhilarating about charging into battle with a rifle blazing.
It's only the little kids that are left closing their hands into fists, peeing their pants, and howling for their mothers. They bare scars that exist long after the adults have forgotten their adrenaline addiction.
Sadly, what happens to children isn't something adults consider when they get "fed up" and decide it's finally time to make a stand.
Our War contains the players and the political arguments that permeate our culture. It's interesting that placed against a backdrop of civil war, the inherent hollowness of political catchphrases becomes readily apparent.
There are hypocrites on both sides of the political spectrum. Members of pro-life right wing militia won't hesitate to assassinate a pregnant left wing refugee. Left wing militia teach girls empowerment by showing girls how to fire weapons, and then send them into battle to die.
The overall political philosophy of Our War leans to the left, obviously, but it does a solid job of showing humanity on the right. I would have liked to see DiLouie portray a little more villainy on the left. Make no mistake, in the real world, there are folks on the left and right who profit from a divided America, and use civil unrest to consolidate their power.
The main focus of Our War is the little people on the ground who are doing the fighting and dying as a result of the decisions made by powerful people in far away places. It's a potent warning about the real casualties of civil war, the question is whether or not rich and powerful people would ever really care?
Is Our War a terrifying novel to read? I don't think "terrifying" is the right word. It feels more like a thought experiment of what might happen if our political system completely collapses.
The peaceful transition of power is one of the things that makes America great. As early as the 2016 campaign, Trump indicated he might not respect a vote count that did not declare him the winner.
In a nation filled with men and women with access to massive caches of military class weapons and ammunition, all it takes is a spark. Trump is playing a dangerous game.
In reading Our War, you can't help but think that there's more than a small chance that this might be the reality we experience either in the aftermath of the 2020 election, or in 2024 if Trump manages to win a second term.
Will this book have relevance beyond those dates? I think so, in the same way that It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis does. Our War creates a very accurate snapshot of American marionettes dancing on a string. People who are convinced of their own individuality, yet are infallible in carrying out their social media implanted programming.
Craig DiLouie creates interesting characters, good dialogue and descriptive scenes. Our War slowly builds in tension and concludes with an appropriate denouement, which suggests a brighter day is always possible.
The best thing about Our War is that it explores how much of our posturing and auto-mythology of toughness can result in nothing more than the pain and suffering of the people we love the most.
Sure, it's satisfying in a moment of frustration and rage to watch a film like John Wick and fantasize how satisfying it would feel to inflict pain on everyone who has ever mocked or harmed you. What Our War shows is that if you indulge in such a reaction, you only end up hurting yourself.
Our War by Craig DiLouie is available on Amazon and other major booksellers. The Audio book is available through Audible and features a fantastic performance by Andrew Eiden.