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Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America

3.55  ·  Rating Details ·  2,637 Ratings  ·  312 Reviews
In the reign of President Deklan Comstock, a reborn United States is struggling back to prosperity. Over a century after the Efflorescence of Oil, after the Fall of the Cities, after the Plague of Infertility, after the False Tribulation, after the days of the Pious Presidents, the sixty stars and thirteen stripes wave from the plains of Athabaska to the national capital i ...more
Hardcover, 413 pages
Published June 23rd 2009 by Tor Books (first published June 2009)
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First the Postives: The book was well-written had a nice “new book” smell. Okay, on to the negatives MEHgatives , beginning with the advisory label I would require if I was Emperor of Literature for the world: Photobucket

There is not a whole lot more that I can add to that so, like the book, I will just sort of d.....r.....a.....w.....t......h......i.....n......g......s....... o....u....t. Or maybe I could just emulate the book and say the same thing several different ways. You know like you say somethin
I really don't know what to say about this terrific book. It's the fourth book I've read by Robert Charles Wilson and the best by far. (I really didn't think he could top Spin.)

Let's be clear that this book is not about Julian Comstock. It is about the narrator, a young man named Adam Hazzard. Along with his best friend, Julian, we are taken on a tour of what must be every aspect of post-apocalyptic America. In this case, the apocalypse is brought about by the collapse of oil, pollution, plague
   1 part Tom Sawyer
+ 1 part Handmaid's Tale
+ 1 part Thucydides

Stir contents vigorously. Serve with eggs on hard tack with maggoty butter.

Sounds implausible, doesn't it?

The narrator, Adam Hazzard, tells the story of the rise of Julian Comstock, nephew and unwanted heir to the current President Deklan Comstock in 2172.

The world has survived an almost-apocalypse with the End of Oil and the Plague of Infertility. By the start of the story, new mega-countries have been formed, the population is grow
May 19, 2009 Stefan rated it it was amazing
Robert Charles Wilson's new novel "Julian Comstock" is set in a vastly changed 22nd century USA - after the end of the age of oil and atheism has ended in disaster. Technology is mostly back to pre-20th century levels, and the population has been vastly reduced due to social upheaval and disease. Society has become fully class-based, divided in a Eupatridian aristocracy, middle-class lease-men, and indentured servants. The country - which now stretches across most of the North American continent ...more
Note: this review is newly placed here as a review of a different book was placed here due to faulty importation when I joined GR--apologies and embarassment

Quite a fine, old-fashioned novel about two boys making their way in a challenging world. But in this case, it is two centuries from the end of oil and civilization has recovered only to a level resembling the 19th century.

One boy, Julian, is the nephew of the U.S. president/king and is being raised far away in the northwest to avoid the d
Clay Kallam
Jan 28, 2011 Clay Kallam rated it liked it
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Back in 1964, Gore Vidal wrote a very good historical fiction novel called “Julian”, which was based on the life of Roman emperor Flavius Claudius Julianus, whose brief reign was from 360-363 CE. Julian the Apostate, as he was known by his Christian enemies, tried to turn the empire away from Christianity, especially the church hierarchy, which was at that time doing its best to stamp out what it considered heresies.

Now, in 2010, Robert Charles Wilson has written “Julian Comstock” (Tor, $25.95,
Nicholas Whyte

Rather fortuitously I read this novel while also working through Gibbon's chapters in The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire on Julian the Apostate, the mid-fourth century Roman emperor who tried to reverse his uncle's adoption of Christianity and failed. (See here, here, here and here.) Julian Comstock, nephew of the 22nd century president of a post-apocalypse America, is modelled a bit on his namesake of 1800 years earlier, though there are some sign
Norman Cook
Jul 29, 2010 Norman Cook rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 28, 2012 Nzric rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this novel. The idea and the overall plot is very strong, and the world is well imagined, but overall this story has the feel of something that was outlined in an essay format and stamped out in a formula.

- Consistent style of writing, the 'period' language is consistent throughout, with no noticeable slips in tone/style.
- General world building is ok - basic politics and some attempt at a timeline.


- unbelievable 'future history'. This book should have been wr
Feb 04, 2010 Lori rated it liked it
A brilliant concept depicting a not-so-distant US after some post apocalyptic event - it reminded me of The Handmaid's Tale in that the Church of Christianity has gained the ultimate power in ruling over all individuals and government. And like The Handmade's Tale, it is completely realistic, and very possible outcome.

For the first half I was loving this, but for some reason I can't quite pin I grew more disillusioned as I progressed with this book. Perhaps part of it is the detachment I felt f
This is just a superb book written in a very quiet and understated manner. I *had* to reread it twice, it was so compelling that I could not leave its characters and universe easily.

Set in a late 22nd century USA, essentially - 2172-2176 - with glimpses from the past and an epilogue some years later, we visit an America that is very familiar from the history books of the 19th century with some twists.

After the "age of Oil and Atheism" ended in catastrophe, with the "Fall of the Cities", the r
Jun 03, 2010 Bryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
At time hilarious, this book shows how a book can succeed on its stylings. The plot is basic, and I could summarize it in two or three sentences (and there's very few twists that occur, so I'd capture the essence of the story quite easily).

But that's not the purpose of this book. The plot is fine, if a bit simplistic, but it only exists as a backdrop for these amazing characters. Lead male Adam Hazzard is a wondrous character - simple and naive, but capable of narrative description that really m
Jan 21, 2010 Lightreads rated it liked it
A very cool book, mildly disappointing. Post oil crisis United States, with a constricted population, Presidential-military-religious government, nineteenth-century values. Country boy Adam Hazzard tells the story of his life with the President's nephew, Julian, in the army and in the capitol of New York.

What's great about this book is that it's post-apocalypse specfic written as a boy's own adventure nineteenth-century novel. And that makes it kind of awesome. The world building is the treat he
Mar 01, 2010 Sarah rated it really liked it
This is the funniest and most charming dystopic novel I've ever read. The setting in some ways seemed to be extrapolated from the events of Kunstler's World Made By Hand, though this book took itself far less seriously. It still raises some great questions about religion and war and the possible future toward which we are heading, but it does so in subtler ways.
Wilson's genius was in choosing Adam Hazzard as the narrator of Julian Comstock's story. Adam's innocence (bordering on obtuseness) with
I'd been reading this since I visited my girlfriend in January. Finally I'm doing a bit of Mount TBR busting, and I picked this up and just steamed through what I had left of it. The fact that that was an effort, combined with how long I just left it mouldering on my to read pile, probably influences my rating.

I don't think I've read any of Robert Charles Wilson's work before, though I do have another of his novels on my shelf somewhere. I'm not sure I would read more if it weren't for that. I g
Apr 17, 2012 Chinook rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: gift to Sean
I don't know if it's just because I read this while travelling solo, so it was my constant companion for 2 days, or if it really is worth the 4.5 stars I would give it if I could, but I loved this look at what the world might be like after oil. I laughed my ass off when I realized the author was Canadian, what with Canada becoming either a state or a battleground between the Americans and the Europeans.

The day after I finished this, I went to visit Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. Petronus bein
Jan 03, 2011 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tom, Camille, Jeff
Recommended to Jeff by: Found it on the library shelves
Shelves: science-fiction
After The Efflorescence of Oil, the Fall of The Cities, and the False Tribulation, America is once again becoming a world power uniting most of the North American continent, from Panama to Labrador, under the thirteen stripes and 60 stars of the American flag and for the sake of the Dominion of Jesus Christ on Earth.

But all this is backdrop. The immediate story is of young Adam Hazzard,naive and trusting lease-boy, born and raised on a fuedal estate on the north-central plains of Athabaska (ree
Sep 28, 2009 Ryun rated it it was amazing
Robert Charles Wilson’s books have been on my “must buy” list since he wrote THE CHRONOLITHS in 2002, and he’s gotten successively better without becoming a corporate retread machine. The ties of family, friendship and love in its infinite variations are central themes in his work. JULIAN COMSTOCK: A STORY OF 22ND-CENTURY AMERICA is no exception; it’s also Wilson’s best book yet.

As the title explains, JULIAN COMSTOCK is set in 22nd-century America, a post-oil land run as an empire by an emperor
Jun 28, 2010 Sandra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, scifi
My feelings as I read this book were so mixed it's hard to review. I was so outraged throughout by the civilization that is portrayed that it was difficult to read. It reminded me very uncomfortably of some of the right wing terrorism that is going on in our country today and made me fear even more than I usually do for the future. The narrator, Adam Hazzard was so naive and downright clueless that I wanted to hit him over the head a few times. And yet, his instincts were good and they seemed to ...more
Robert Kroese
Dec 20, 2011 Robert Kroese rated it liked it
Wow, this book is long. Er, I mean sprawling. This is one hell of a sprawling book. It's like 600 pages sprawling.

OK, the good: Wilson's prose is impeccable. I wish I could write sentences like this. Also, he presents a very believable 22nd century America, as it might be after several major calamities and the rise of the Religious Right. The 22nd century, it turns out, is a lot like the 19th century. In fact, most of this book reads like the story of a country boy drafted to fight in the Americ
Jamie Collins
I enjoyed this very much. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian United States, but it’s largely a cheerful story. The society approximates that of the late 19th century, albeit a bit more feudal and with the requisite tiresome oppressive religious authority. I’m a little weary of this particular kind of apocalypse (We run out of oil! Religious fundamentalists take over!) but the book is so good that I didn’t mind.

This story of Julian Comstock, former president of the United States, is told i
Jun 18, 2009 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: eschatology, dystopia
In the year 2176, the origins of the United States of America lie shrouded in legend. The old world fell when cheap oil ran out and humanity soldiers on with 19th-century technology and morality governed by the religious authorities in Colorado Springs. The Presidency is hereditary and the Supreme Court is long abolished. Wilson tells the story of Julian Comstock, grandson of the current President, and his rise and fall. Truly, though, the story is about Comstock's friend Adam Hazzard more than ...more
Sep 10, 2009 Jason rated it really liked it
OK, first of all, reading goal for the year made. I suppose we will get to 7 or 8 books before the end of the year. That's really my typical pace.

If you've been following this blog in the usual voyeuristic manner, you will have noted by now my attraction to post-apocolyptic literature. I largely chalk this up to a Cold War childhood, where scraping life together in a post-apocolyptic world seemed less science fiction, and more like contingency planning. Anywho, I am also an occasional reader of
Aug 18, 2009 Alan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Readers of stylish sf
Recommended to Alan by: io9
Allow me to add my voice to the chorus of praise attending the celebrated Mr. Robt. Chas. Wilson's novel. For Wilson has done something truly extraordinary—he has taken the tired old subgenre of post-apocalyptic pastoral sf and revived it thoroughly.

Adam Hazzard, Wilson's narrator, is a pitch-perfect American voice, recreating the cadences of a 19th-Century orator in prose that brings to mind the elegant simplicity of a Mark Twain or a Nathaniel Hawthorne. It's a polished yet straightforward sty
Feb 15, 2011 Doug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought the way the culture evolved was somewhat interesting, with a few interesting differences from the many stories where a neo-feudalism evolves (albeit one with laissez-faire capitalism) . In particular, there was an interesting mention of how the government decided how limited resources were allocated to the economy. While I'm not sure how plausible this culture was, I would really like more information to convince me. The cynical role of religion and the Owners brought back memories of ...more
Jun 14, 2010 Alice rated it it was amazing
A terrific mish-mash of speculative fiction and post-apocalyptica (one reviewer called it 'the tired old subgenre of post-apocalyptic pastoral sf,' which I didn't know even existed, and which I now must seek out!), written as a 19th century adventure story. Set a few hundred years in the future after the collapse of a fossil-fuel dependent world, the US has reverted back to the norms of the 1800s: a primarily agricultural society where indentured servitude is common, Victorian morality is promot ...more
Apr 16, 2010 Craighayden rated it it was amazing
Hard to encapsulate what is great about this book - since it is wonderful for so many reasons. I suppose its setting is "post-apocalyptic," for it imagines an America after oil that has refashioned itself as a kind of 19th century developing industrial nation, caught in the grip of crushing industrial feudalism and an oppressive church hierarchy. It also is written as a kind of 19th century novel, which adds to the world-building flavor. Yet while this novel excels in its truly inventive setting ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Jul 30, 2009 Bookmarks Magazine rated it really liked it
Shelves: sept-oct-2009
"Wilson, whom Stephen King has called ""probably the finest science-fiction author now writing,"" clearly pulls off a lot with this latest novel, and critics responded with appropriately universal praise. Well, almost. Adam Hazzard's narrative voice is clearly meant to evoke the moral fiction of the 19th century, and, as SciFi Wire saw it, it serves as ""a kind of Sancho Panza to Julian's Don Quixote."" However, the narrator's naivet
Sep 10, 2009 bsc rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, read-2009
I had originally rated this book only four stars, but it has been a few weeks now and this book is staying fresh in my memory. Looking back through the books I've read this year, I'd have to say this is my favorite SF book of 2009 (though depending on your definition, you may not label this science fiction at all).
Jason Pettus
Apr 29, 2009 Jason Pettus rated it really liked it
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

It's Hugo time! And as regular readers know, as with years past, I am trying to read as many of the nominees as possible for this most prestigious of science-fiction awards, before the award itself is actually given out this September at Worldcon in Melbourne, Australia. As of today I've now read three of
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I've been writing science fiction professionally since my first novel A Hidden Place was published in 1986. My books include Darwinia, Blind Lake, and the Hugo Award-winning Spin. My newest novel is The Affinities (April 2015).
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“You must not make the mistake of thinking that because nothing lasts, nothing matters.” 11 likes
“I want a better Bible, Adam. I want a Bible in which the Fruit of Knowledge contains the Seeds of Wisdom, and makes life more pleasurable for mankind, not worse. I want a Bible in which Isaac leaps up from the sacrificial stone and chokes the life out of Abraham, to punish him for the abject and bloody sin of Obedience. I want a Bible in which Lazarus is dead and stubborn about it, rather than standing to attention at the beck and call of every passing Messiah.” 5 likes
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