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An American Story

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  168 ratings  ·  30 reviews

A powerful meditation on loss and memory seen through the prism of 9/11, by one of our greatest authors.

Ben Matson lost someone he loved in the 9/11 attacks. Or thinks he did - no body has been recovered, and she shouldn't have been on that particular plane at that time. But he knows she was.

The world has moved on from that terrible day. Nearly 20 years later, it has

Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Published September 6th 2018 by Gollancz
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Average rating 3.48  · 
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 ·  168 ratings  ·  30 reviews

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Rebecca McNutt
I think it's difficult to really capture the gravity of heinous events. Even the best authors of our time can't necessarily paint a full picture of just how terrible things can get in humanity's darkest hours. An American Story seems intent on subtly stirring up political banter (thank god there's not much of that conspiracy theory crud in here though, if you want that stuff it's more than plentiful in the back-alleys of the information superhighway), but at the same time this sci-fi book set in ...more
Jul 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley

With thanks to Orion/Gollancz for the opportunity to read an ARC.
David Harris
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm grateful to Gollancz for an advance copy of this book.

An American Story is an extraordinary book, although it's hard to pin down why in a review, or indeed to pin it down at all. I think that's the point.

Part thriller, part love story, part examination of loss and grief, part history, this book revolves around the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the USA. It's not science fiction or fantasy - I wondered if Priest would use that to get at the reality (or realities?) behind 9/11 but I
While overall a very good novel, I have some conflicted feelings about it so I will try to break out its aspects in the 3 elements that were really important for me:

- as a novel (characters, energy, prose, structure) is superb and engrossing though it has no real sff elements (the only arguably sfnal element is the post-Brexit, independent Scotland part of EU vs the paranoic and isolated England)

- regarding 9/11 the storyline was ok, it didn't bother me and it sounded about right regarding the
Brian Clegg
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Christopher Priest is one of our leading SF authors, and there are elements of science and mathematics here in what is principally a straight novel exploring the impact of 9/11 on relatives of those who were killed, riffing on the experience of loss and the nature of memory.

To do this, Priest makes uses of a mathematician who seems to be involved in a project that draws a parallel between a mathematical conjecture and a psychohistory-like concept where reality is forged from perception. I say ‘
Nov 05, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mucha paranoia con el 11S. Un repaso a buena parte de las teorias conspiranoicas con lo que o te gusta o lo odias.

Por otro lado, Priest vuelve a ahondar en la mente humana. En este caso en como reacciona tras unos eventos tan criticos como los que sucedieron en Nueva York.

Lo he leido con agrado.
Sep 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: arcs
The story of Ben Matson and his exploration into how he lost his girlfriend during 9/11, An American Story explores themes such as love and conspiracy theories.

The way book is written as almost a stream of consciousness, can be a little offputting at first as it feels almost tangential, however I think it adds to the personality of the book as it continues, giving us what Ben is going through, what he is thinking and what is going on throughout the book.

The plot unravels well, but the whole
Ian Mond
Dec 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
What to make of An American Story.

For a while I thought it was going to be a profound exploration of objectivity, reality and the bedrock of truth - topics Priest has been interested in over many years. There’s a moment, about two-thirds of the way through, when the main character, Ben Matson and his ailing mother-in-law (she’s recently suffered a stroke) have conflicting memories about a particular event (the details of which aren’t worth discussing). It’s here I thought Priest, like he had
May 11, 2019 rated it liked it
This had much more potential than what we were given. Priest offered some interesting theories about the events of 9/11 and as a result, uncertainties of the death of the main character’s girlfriend who was aboard one of the doomed planes. He proposed mathematical and social theories to account for inconsistencies in the reporting of what happened on that dreadful day. Unfortunately, these theories were never fully explored leaving me perplexed as to their significance. There were certain ...more
Donnally Miller
Jun 15, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a very well-written book. The authorial voice is impeccable. Reading it was a pleasurable experience.
However, it's weakness is that it contains an uneasy mix of reality and fiction. It is an energetic indictment of the American government for manipulating truth in pursuit of political ends married to a novel about love and loss and getting on with life. The novel suffers as a result. Priest is clearly very angry (as are many of us) about the way life has changed since 9/11. He wants to
David Gill
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book is all about the tragic events of 9/11 and whether we the public know the whole story. Half way through this book I was thinking I would be giving it 5 Stars as I was so gripped by the story. But then it got a bit repetitive and boring and did not live up to its early promise. On completing it I was extremely disappointed. It has set me thinking though, and I wonder how much of what is in the book about 9/11 is just from the authors imagination, and how much is real fact. Perhaps the ...more
Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Always thrilled to receive the new Chris Priest with trembling fingers. I realize he is more popularly known for The Prestige, but I prefer his fantastical realism books like The Gradual, The Adjacent, and his work in the Dream Archipelago.

An American Story is rather a left turn in Priest's oeuvre, a thinly veiled journalistic fiction regarding the causes outcomes, and coverup of the 9/11 tragedy. The narrator, a science journalist, investigates 9/11 relentlessly at various times over the 20
Dan Trefethen
Mar 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
I greatly admire Chris Priest's work. His novel “The Prestige”, about two dueling magicians in Victorian times, is a brilliant piece of deception (pun intended). It was made into a fairly successful movie starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, directed by Christopher Nolan. I highly recommend the book BEFORE you see the movie; you'll get the full benefit of Priest's narrative deception.

Deception, ambiguity, misleading references, conflicting statements... Chris Priest always challenges a
Oct 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pour se débarrasser des choses qui fâchent, je vais tout de suite faire part de ma surprise, en effet étant un roman de la collection Lunes D'Encre, je m'attendais à un roman de science-fiction (ou au moins un récit en ayant des éléments), mais ici il n'en est rien. Nous suivons un journaliste impliqué dans les conséquences de l'après 11 septembre 2001, obsédé par l'événement ici présenté sous forme d'enquête mais aussi de moments de vie et de souvenirs et ce pour une raison, faire son deuil de ...more
Alex Storer
A slightly different direction for Mr Priest, and not one that initially interested me. However, I decided to give it a go, as the basic premise of the story – conspiracy theories –is similar to the regular themes which underpin most of his writing.

He tells the story in a typical Priestian way; a couple of chapters in and I was really enjoying it and looking forward to the dark twists and turns that would be uncovered. But that wasn't really to be. Three quarters through, and it really felt like
Aug 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book and had trouble putting it down. I never knew that it was hard to publish a book on 9/11 - let alone a fictional book on 9/11. I remember a couple days after 9/11, I said to my colleague that it wouldn't surprise me to find out that the US was involved. Of course my colleague got very angry at me, because if you are an American citizen you are not to ever question the leaders of the US, and if you do, you don't love this country. Such an antiquated way of thinking, ...more
Anthony Jauneaud
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
An American Story is a very classic Christopher Priest book and I would even recommend NOT starting reading his works by this novel. We follow the thoughts of a journalist who lost his girlfriend in 9/11 and is taken back to that fateful day over and over again by destiny… or mathematics.
It is not surprising that the book was not published in the States. Not surprising by quite shocking honestly as the novel perfectly explains why it is wrong: by not debating this event, we surrendered our
Nov 03, 2018 rated it liked it
I didn't enjoy this as much as his other books I've read. It's a more conventional book than he normally writes, it's about 9/11, and is set firmly in our world, or one so close as to make no difference. Tablets appear much earlier, electric cars are the norm, Scotland is an independent EU member, whilst rUK is more of a police state, OK the future setting has taken a little bit of a speculative jump, but it's not set in any of his Dream Archipelago worlds, with weird geography or time ...more
Nov 16, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars.

Christopher Priest has written a thoughtful and rather uncomfortable novel. At some point you will set the book down and ask yourself if you're really sitting through a 9/11 truther novel. And then you'll wonder if Priest could write such a novel without being a truther himself. Hopefully at some point you will begin to question the binary nature of 9/11 conspiracies - why do we only have 2 choices - (1) believe everything the government tells us (which is laughable on the face of it)
Oct 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: sf
An American Story by Christopher Priest is a meditation on the 9/11 attacks, told through journalist Ben Matson who loses his partner on one of the planes.

It's quite different to a usual Priest novel, in that it's very much centred around an actual event, but through fictitious characters. The first half especially I found readable and interesting, but I thought it lost it's way a bit by the end - and ultimately it's just a showcase for Chris's views on 9/11, ie, an alternate version to what was
Guido Eekhaut
Oct 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an unusual book, even for Chris. We're used to reading his magnificent mythical tales, but this is close to reality, even if it questions our perceived reality. As the cover makes clear, this is a boo about 9/11. And then again, it isn't, because it is more about the myth of 9/11 and the possibility of another story, darker, deeper, and unexplained. It takes a great writer like Chris Priest to write a gripping tale around this impossible subject.
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting to have CP's trademark alternative realities narrative rubbing up against competing versions of understanding 9/11. Not as satisfying a work of alternative history as The Separation, but occupies more the territory of living in mental confusion ('cognitive dissidence' as he writes in his website), over an event that has caused personal pain. It's also a good advertisement for the Isle Of Bute.
Nick Robson
Dec 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Julie Garagliano
May 11, 2019 rated it liked it
An intriguing book, part fact, part fiction, part supposition. Is the story we know about 9/11 real or are we victims of media manipulation? Not a "conspiracy theory" treatise but Priest does manage to engage the reader in a "what if" scenario. To me it could have used a bit of editing, too much mundane detail about mundane everyday life, but still, I liked it well enough to finish it.
Nov 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
That Priestian cognitive dissonance we've come to love and expect, but this time from what seems like the most conspicuous of places: 9/11 and fake news, which stirs a little resentment in me, purposeful though I'm sure it is. Enjoyable as Priest always is, and certainly hard-to-put-down, but still not quite sure what to make of it.
Gideon Dabi
Jan 11, 2019 rated it did not like it
9/11 Truther garbage. Exceedingly disappointing coming from an otherwise tremendous writer. Priest’s The Islanders was probably the best book I read in 2018 and An American Story will most likely be the worst book I read in 2019
Maura Heaphy Dutton
Curious novel, which I can only describe as proselytizing for the 9/11 "truther" cause.

Readable and intriguing, which is only what you would expect from an author like Christopher Priest, but I can't say that, at the end, I felt either converted or uplifted.
Ron Henry
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The arguments that two minutes of searching on the web will reveal about whether or not Priest is a 9/11 "Truther" are a good illustration of the fallacy, or type of fallacy, that Priest's novels, including this one, work to investigate, unravel, inhabit, and even re-imagine.

The facts of the historical terrorist attacks becomes less knowable by the day, on both a shared mass media and an individual level. In the place of fact, or truth, story comes into being, writes itself out of the facts, is
Sep 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I’m a big fan of Christopher Priest so I was looking forward to this book. Unfortunately, I had mixed feelings about it and was somewhat disappointed.

This book is basically straight-up fiction about how new niggling details about 9/11 rekindles the interest of the main character about the girlfriend he lost on that day. It’s well written as a Priest book always is with good prose and great characterization. It has the usual Priest style of uncertainty and unreliability, manifesting this time as
rated it liked it
Feb 06, 2019
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Christopher Priest was born in Cheshire, England. He began writing soon after leaving school and has been a full-time freelance writer since 1968.

He has published eleven novels, four short story collections and a number of other books, including critical works, biographies, novelizations and children’s non-fiction.

He has written drama for radio (BBC Radio 4) and television (Thames TV and HTV). In