The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party by MT Anderson

I loved M.T. Anderson from the moment I set eyes on Whales on Stilts. After reading The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen, I was hooked. I am ashamed to admit that I have not yet read or listened to Feed, but I swear I will get to it. When The Pox Party started getting to much attention on ADBOOKS, though, I knew this had to be the next book of his I read. Since it is such a long book, I took the easy way out and got the audiobook! At times, I knew I was missing out on the “feel” of the book, since I only heard what was written on the letters and posters, but I can always go back and look at the book now that I have heard the story.

In this story, we are introduced to Octavian Nothing. His mother was an African princess, kidnapped and sold into slavery. When she arrived in America, she was purchased by the philosophers of the Novanglian College of Lucidity in Boston, Massachussetts. Octavian is given a classical education, expensive garments, and fine foods. Very uncommon for a young black man in the era of the American Revolution. Octavian does not know any different, so he does not question any of the strange experiments — like how they weigh, measure, and record both his input (food) and output (feces) every day.

When the Novanglian College of Lucidity loses its funding, things begin to change for Octavian and his mother. For the first time, Octavian faces some of the harsh realities of slavery — like being stripped and beaten, wearing chains and a metal helmet with a bit, and fighting in a war for “freedom” from England when the slaves, themselves, would never be freed from their owners.

Booklist’s reviewer said it better than I could ever say it myself:
The fluctuations between satire and somber realism, gothic fantasy and factual history will jar and disturb readers, creating a mood that echoes Octavian’s unsettled time as well as our own.

A must read for anyone who wishes to know the truth about this period in American history.

Happy Reading!


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