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Above All Men

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  195 ratings  ·  46 reviews
Above All Men Book Page -

Years from now, America is slowly collapsing. Crops are drying up and oil is running out. People flee cities for the countryside, worsening the drought and opening the land to crime. Amid this decay and strife, war veteran David Parrish fights to keep his family and farm together. However, the murder of a local child opens old
Paperback, First, 266 pages
Published March 1st 2014 by MG Press (first published January 23rd 2014)
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Average rating 3.99  · 
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 ·  195 ratings  ·  46 reviews

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i haven't read will mcintosh's Soft Apocalypse yet, but it is such a perfect description, i have to apply it to this book. as i understand it, it refers to the idea that our comfortable modern civilization will be destroyed slowly but steadily by the inevitable decline of resources and climate changes - an apocalypse caused by a winding down rather than a bang. and that's what this is - a world wound down.

in a way, it is very similar to The Road. it's got that incredibly spare prose - short sent
Review for Audio edition (narrated by Dane Elcar, published by Fiddleblack)

Listened March 2015
3 Stars - Recommended to already-fans of audio books (Awesome 5 star story that just doesn't shine as sharply when narrated)
Length: approx 8 hours
Publisher: Fiddleblack
Narrator: Dane Elcar
Released: February 2015

Last January, I read Eric Shonkwiler's Above All Men and though it was the first book I'd read that year, and I was barely a quarter of the way through it, I had already named it an early favori
Leah Angstman
Jan 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: McCarthy, Hemingway fans; readers of realistic dystopian, post-collapse literary fic; Midwesterners
UPDATE 3/17/15: I first read this book as an ARC in January 2014. This is my fourth or fifth time reading it, and it is still as vibrant, surprising, and new as the first time I read it. Highly, highly recommended to fans of the "slowpocalypse," near-future, character-driven, dark, realistic dystopian fiction (or even those who are not, because I definitely am not, usually). Beautiful prose, gripping story, and an uneasiness that eats at you quietly. Still so, so good, the fourth time through.

Steph Post
May 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A feeling of desperation permeates the pages of Above All Men and from the first word to the last, the reader can sense this knife's edge looming over the fate of the characters. David, though haunted by memories of a previous war that he and his best friend lost their innocence to, is willing to go to dangerous and violent lengths to protect his family. Yet he is a conflicted man, a post-modern cowboy who stoically sits his horse against the sunset, while inwardly battling the demons of PTSD. W ...more
Feb 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book was a challenging read and took a long time to get through, but it was worth it. I'm not sure whether anyone else has really captured this concept of the "Slowpocalypse" - a deterioration of society that happens incrementally, the result of an environmental and societal collapse, rather than zombies or bombs or bioterrorism or some killer virus - and the story picks up on the middle of that deterioration. The characters are aware of it, of the collapse, but the reader also notices that ...more
May 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
How would I describe this book? "Grapes of Wrath" reimagined through the lens of "The Road." The voice is plainspokenly honest like the Steinbeck classic, but takes you darker places than the struggles through which humans have already been. We get to see how a very real seeming man tries to move forward for his family while torn between the world it is and the world he can't stop wishing it was. Stark, sparse, and honest, pay attention. This may be a dystopian future...but it's a little too clo ...more
Frau Sorge (Yuki)
I won the copy of this book in The Next Best Book Club giveaway thanks to amazing Leah Angstman (she told me about TNBBC giveaway and I love her).

Review to come, I'll be rereading the book before discussion.
Taylor Brown
Jun 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I don't usually review the books I read, but when I do it's a book as good as Eric Shonkwiler's ABOVE ALL MEN. There is a lot of comparing done these days of writers to Cormac McCarthy, and I find most such comparisons unmerited, to be honest. Not in this case. Rarely does a writer achieve heights that seem almost superhuman, that stun me because they're just so damn good. Eric Shonkwiler does that, and does it with vicious restraint. I will not give you a synopsis; I will give you a passage:

Richard Derus
Aug 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
Rating: 5* of five

Review TK.
Lynne Janbergs
Mar 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
It's hard to believe this intense, gritty, dark book was written by such a young author. The imagery is spot on, and the characters, while not particularly likeable, are real people. The action is slow to build, but by the last quarter Above All Men grabs you by the shirt front and pulls you along until the grim - yet hopeful - conclusion.

Full disclosure: Eric Shonkwiler went to school with and is a friend of my daughter, which is why I bought this book. I expected it to be reasonably well-writt
Mar 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
At first the fact that I went to a reading that this author gave distracted me from the story--it is the ultimate of someone recommending a book and then you spend the whole time that you reading it wondering why that person thought you'd like it so much. But, frankly, the story drew me in so much that I had forgotten all about the author by the time I was 1/3 of the way into the book. The setting--in the future, when the world as we know it is coming apart at the seams due to climate change--wa ...more
Noel Mariano
Feb 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I love the grittiness of the text. I have to say that the book was so good, I was able to barter it for a stuffed goat head from the local taxidermist here. He loved the book so much that he bought a copy that he keeps in his shop and the one I bartered with him he keeps at his home. There's so much to enjoy from the text from the dire strength of the characters to the fact that when I read it, I felt this discomfort in the back of my neck that only comes from when things really sink into my sub ...more
Apr 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
"For a moment he knew Samuel's heart and knew its trajectory, like a star loose from constellation." (224)

Stunning and well written - I couldn't put it down! I think this was an amazing read. Such talent this author has - I was blown away on so many levels.

This has definitely been a novel that I had to sit back and think about after the last page. A couple of days later, I'm still in the "wow" stage and can't get it off my mind. I'll now try my hand at a review, tho, because I'd really like to recommend that others give it a read.

"Above All Men" takes place in an unspecified time, in an unspecified
Jun 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-fiction

Life is different in America after the wars. Infrastructures fell and were not able to be replaced. For example, when a hurricane knocks out oil refineries there is no more gasoline after what is available is used up. The country reverts to life as it was a hundred years ago, in the 1930's, a more rural, slow life.

David Parrish is a war veteran who has returned home. He tries to maintain a family life with his wife Helene and their son, Samuel. It eats at him that Samuel, who is very bright, w
Oct 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
A book that I really liked yet also really didn't. With that said, you should know that this is the most artistic, expressionistic piece of writing I've read this year. The majority of the criticisms here are directed at the characters and not the author.

As a first novel, Above All Men is fantastic, superb, beautifully and artistically written. Shonkwiler employs the iconic no-quotation approach of Cormac McCarthy (and Faulkner). Some might find this style of writing confusing, but, if done rig
Aline Ohanesian
Oct 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-by-friends
This stark and compelling literary debut is set in an apocalyptic Midwest, where water and oil are scarce. The plot revolves around a war veteran fighting to keep his family safe, while confronting the dark side of his own nature as he hunts for a child killer. It's a beautifully crafted tale and Shonkwiler's writing style is reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy's specifically in Blood Meridian. A literary cowboy thriller of the highest order. ...more
Steve Essick
Nov 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
As a young man David Parrish goes to war to try to save a world he little understands. Haunted by the ravages of battle, David returns to the blighted heartland of the country he fought to save only to discover that the battle rages on - only now to save his farm and family. "Above All Men" is a lyrical tale of survival in the not to distant future. A riveting novel , beautifully told. Not to be missed! ...more
Scott Wilson
Nov 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book made me want to grab the family, load up the chickens and the dog, and head back to the mountains I grew up in. The author did an amazing job inserting the reader into a very plausible and personal story of struggle. Steinbeck meets McCarthy. Parts weighed heavily on my heart, and other passages were poignantly hopeful. One of the best books I've read. ...more
Steve Karas
Apr 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Great, moving book. Each time I took a break from it, it stayed in my bones, hung in the back of my mind. Everything about it was so well-crafted: the characters, plot, setting, prose. I admire Shonkwiler's patience, never in a rush to make the story unfold, to me, the mark of a genuine talent in total command. ...more
Woogie! Kristin!
Apr 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
FANTASTIC read! The build up is perfect, much like the horses gait featured throughout the novel. The end is a fast paced gallop and kept me guessing about the outcome the entire time.
Paula Hess
Apr 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Intense take on apocalypse in rural America in the not too distance future. Severe droughts, oil and fuel shortages. No jobs.. maybe closer than we think. Look forward to the authors next book.
May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Eric Shonkwiler’s Above All Men is a surprisingly strong effort for a young writer. His first novel, it is set in the Midwest of the United States in an unspecified future time. It traces the struggles of David Parrish as the country—and presumably the world—is in a state of slow, measured collapse. The cause is not apparently cataclysmic (nothing like Cormac McCarthy’s world in The Road) but rather a combination of political ineptitude, war and irreversible climate change.

What is striking about
Sheldon Compton
Aug 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Eric Shonkwiler’s Above All Men (available now from MG Press) is a novel set in the not-too-distant future after a war I generally assumed to be inspired by the war for oil we are currently trying to live through. This future is only a few decades from the present day and Shonkwiler does a good job of not overstepping while making that future not drastically different than today. For example, the lack of television as a luxury is one that comes up both overtly and then also in an implied way for ...more
Ruth Awad
Apr 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Above All Men is both a cautionary tale and a mirror – its apocalyptic landscape brought on by climate change isn't that far from the one I could ostensibly see outside my window or on the news. Bridging that space between where we are and where we are certainly headed does wonders for kicking up existential dread in the reader in a way I haven't truly experienced since House of Leaves (why should a house that grows and shrinks be that frightening, anyway?). It's masterful the way Shonkwiler pla ...more
Emmett Chase
Apr 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 stars as a first book. Other reviewers have mentioned that the writing style is borrowed directly from Cormac McCarthy and it can be distracting but once you can keep that loose nugget from rattling around in your head this book shines like gold.

The writing is economical and reads fast and you feel like you are reading a day to day description of David's life. From the first page to the last, you wonder where in the world the writer is taking you, which is a good thing. So many books are predi
Jul 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
I received this book as part of a giveaway for the August 2014 author reader discussion in The Next Best Book Club.

I really enjoyed this book. Eric has created a book that looks at difficult but interesting themes including climate change and post-tramatic stress syndrome. I think one of the best things he accomplishes with this book is the character development. The characters are real people, flawed and trying to make the best of what they can in a desolate time and place. There are challenges
Mar 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A patient, subtle, and deeply moral read, Shonkwiler's ABOVE ALL MEN gets the obvious Cormac McCarthy comparisons -- and deservedly so -- but for my money it has much more in common with John Steinbeck's moral fiction.

Call it a dystopian new western, wrought in glinting, polished-edge, poetic where the simple struggle of daily survival turns from desperate agricultural procedural to existential ritual, and the already blurry fringe of right and wrong fade further away in a world who
Al Sevcik
May 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
If it were possible I would award this book six stars instead of five. The setting is in farm country sometime after the nation’s oil supply has peaked and diminished. The land yields a bare living with the greatest difficulty. The protagonist is a tough man with a tough past. A good man who is his own worst enemy. The writing is masterful. The descriptive details are right on. The dialog is so real that it pulls the reader into the scene. The characters seem true. If you are looking for a story ...more
Jul 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
I knew that I would like this book based on a trusted source's glowing review. I did have trouble with the absence of quotation marks, but it could be because I read electronically and tend to make the print larger (I walk and read at the same time). The book reminded me a good bit of The Road, but at least with SOME happy bits (talk about the saddest book EVER), and definitely, Larry McMurtry. I am looking forward to more by this author. ...more
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Eric Shonkwiler is the author of Above All Men, Moon Up, Past Full, and the forthcoming 8th Street Power & Light. His writing has appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Millions, Fiddleblack, [PANK] Magazine, and Midwestern Gothic. He was born and raised in Ohio, and received his MFA from The University of California Riverside. ...more

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