LeAnn's Reviews > The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol I: The Pox Party

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nati... by M.T. Anderson
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Feb 28, 08

Recommended to LeAnn by: Donald Maass Web site
Recommended for: Older YA, adult, historical fiction readers
Read in February, 2008

First of all, this isn't an easy book to read in many ways so I caution against introducing it too soon. It really is a book aimed at older teens and adults. The diction is old-fashioned, the vocabulary is complex, the storytelling is dramatic, but not movie-like, and the subject matter is disturbing and intense. In some places, the reader needs to be mature and patient enough to allow Octavian's story to be told while another character provides insight into the mindset and beliefs of those who took up arms against England during the Revolutionary War.

Having started (but not finished) Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver, I found the "experiments" conducted by the "natural philosophers" in Octavian familiar and believable, if still bizarre. I guess science had to start somewhere, but learning more about the birth of scientific inquiry makes me appreciate all the more the fact that I live in modern times. (However, watching an episode of Penn & Teller's HBO BS show on parasites last night reminded me that some of us are still unenlightened about a lot of things that science has shed light upon.)

I personally loved the old-fashioned feel of the book, the places in the text where Octavian's emotions overcame him so much that he had to blot out his account, the sidetracks into letters from his owners, his militia friend, and the newspaper ads. These things added a richness and a dimension to the story that moved it beyond the account of one colonial slave boy to an indictment of slavery.

I am looking forward to reading the second volume when it is published.
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