The American Book of the Dead

The American Book of the Dead

4.1 16
by Henry Baum

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When he begins dreaming about people who turn out to be real, he wonders if his novel is real as well. Which isn't good news: the radical and demented President Winchell is bent on bringing about worldwide destruction. Eugene Myers may just be the one to stop the apocalypse.  See more details below


When he begins dreaming about people who turn out to be real, he wonders if his novel is real as well. Which isn't good news: the radical and demented President Winchell is bent on bringing about worldwide destruction. Eugene Myers may just be the one to stop the apocalypse.

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American Book of the Dead 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
AdamBourke More than 1 year ago
I have no idea how the author of this book could have remained sane. Perhaps he didn't. This is one of the most complex books I've read - yet is remarkably easy to understand. I don't know how it does it. Somehow it tricks your brain into thinking without you realising or something. It's a book about a writer who writes a book that he's already written which is the book that you'd be reading if you read this book. Try not to think about that too much. It's basically a summary of the introduction - which I found confusing until I'd read the rest of the book. But IT IS definitely worth a read. Chances are you won't have read anything like it before (If anyone has, let me know), and it's an interesting experience. It's a pretty unique book - lots of people have tried and failed to classify it. I have no idea what genre it. I'm saying Sci-fi because it kind of is, but I'm also putting it on the general fiction blog. But whatever genre it is, I think it would appeal to anyone interested in books about any one of: apocalypse, religion, dreams, psychics, politics or humanity - amongst many more. Now I'm actually interested in all of them except psychics, but it's the last one that really made this book for me. OK, so the introduction makes little sense until you finish the book. But the first chapter, one of my favourites, really appealed to me because it was honest. The character has feelings he shouldn't have, dreams he's embarrassed about, and a daughter that's better at logic than him. It seems to me that this character is the essence of humanity. He's realistic, and he doesn't try to hide it. The religion, the politics, the apocalypse. All of it is interesting, but it was this reflection of humanity in the novel is what really makes it stand out. In fact, there is only one thing that I didn't like in the book. The Daughter of the main character, Sophia. Not the character of Sophia - actually the opposite. I felt that she should have been in it more. She's the focus of chapter one, and then sort of vanishes for a while. she shows up every now and again - including the scene on page 129 - which I thought could have done with a lot more emotional detail. But I felt she should have been around more. But other than this one detail, I really enjoyed the book. It was exciting, confusing, complex, and actually quite believable in parts. If Baum had used his name for the main character, I think I would be terrified that it could come true. But it's an entertaining book, and one that would be an interesting read for anyone.
RonFritsch More than 1 year ago
As I read Henry Baum's The American Book of the Dead, I couldn't help but wonder if it was science fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, dystopian fiction, or some other kind of non-realistic fiction. Early on, the narrator insists it's none of the above. Ultimately, I decided there was no need to answer the question. For me, the most intriguing characters in this story are Charles Winchell, the President of the United States, his controlling (or not) father Benjamin, and the President's wife, Amy, who more than once refers to her husband as an idiot. For those of us who lived through the first decade of the 21st century, Charles, Benjamin, and Amy might very well seem to be public figures we already know. They might also remind those of us who were raised as Christians of the father-and-son-but-really-one contortion at the heart of the religion, as well as the apparent mother and wife of them both. In any event, this father and son agree, with their secret followers around the world, that the only way to save humanity is to kill off all but a tiny fraction of the human species in a magnificent World War III-in which even England and Canada see fit to drop bombs on America-and to begin civilization anew with the survivors in an area of Los Angeles north of Sunset Boulevard purposefully protected from the ravages of the war. Charles, though, wishes to go beyond his publicly taking on the role of the Anti-Christ to herald the Second Coming of Christ and start the war. Charles, defying his father, imagines the roles of the Anti-Christ and the returning Messiah as one. How else can he justify giving the horrific orders to wipe out billions of human beings? What I especially enjoyed about Baum's novel was the question raised throughout (I would've said "on every page" if I hadn't read the digital version) as to the reliability of the narrator. He tells us he's a hopelessly unsuccessful novelist who is writing a novel in 2008 that turns out to be the one we're reading, The American Book of the Dead. The story becomes true as he writes it, almost as if he's a god. And yet, since the past, present, and future are all the same, when the action he's writing about takes place in 2020, he has already finished writing the novel. Some of the characters read it and therefore know how it ends and what happens to themselves even as they play their parts in it like actors in a drama. (They wisely, though, don't give away the ending to readers such as myself.) Baum is delightfully playing with the very idea of telling a story. Nobody ever told one without pretending to be a god. That's what a god does.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hugely imaginative. Slightly reminiscent of Stephen King's The Stand. Wish this author had more on Nook!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome book, well written. I had a really hard time putting it down!!!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
But confusing
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Queen-Mack More than 1 year ago
this was one of the strangest books i have ever read and im not sure that i will ever read it again.
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AlexAustin More than 1 year ago
The American Book of the Dead, By Henry Baum Many writers have sailed off on the premise of a writer writing a book which turns out to be the book written-the one that you're holding in your hands (in this case, The American Book of the Dead). Fiction's shores are littered with these wrecks of self-indulgence. Henry Baum, who nests more than a few matryoshka dolls inside the concept, pulls it off mostly, in this cleverly plotted, and at times demanding, book. The setting is America 2008 and America 2020, and narrator Eugene Myers is writing a novel. Myers explains he is a young man with a new family and also a middle-aged man of fifty, a teacher, waiting out the Apocalypse. The book is rooted in 9/11, when Myers was trying to write another novel and had just broken up with his girlfriend. The events of 9/11 changed the course of his life. He married the girlfriend, had a kid and moved into the future haunted by the images of 9/11. The images provide him with an idea for a new novel: "A writer uncovers the secrets of a UFO conspiracy, secret societies, life after death, all of which lead to WW III, spearheaded by a fundamentalist Christian president. In short, everything that eventually happens." The young Myers knows all this happened because the older Myers is helping him write his story, providing "Cliffs notes from the future," one of the notes revealing, for example, that World War III happened. Things start (or "started," these multiple temporal POVs put a strain on tense) deteriorating in Myers's America when a pornographic sitcom called "Stick It to Me" attracts a national audience and sets in motion a tidal wave of violence and sex. It also results in a personal dilemma for Myers when he discovers his daughter doing porno online. Confronted with her actions, the daughter shamelessly defends herself. Hey, everybody's doing it. The prevalence of this attitude across American society produces a conservative backlash that gets Charles Winchell, a Christian fundamentalist, elected president. Myers weaves his efforts to get his daughter out of porn with the changes on the national stage, and then ups the ante when he suffers a head injury that gives him the power to connect with other people who will figure in the coming Apocalypse. Myers, of course, will play a crucial role in the gathering events. Although the story occasionally brings to mind Philip K. Dick. The American Book of the Dead is more akin to the satire of Kurt Vonnegut, perhaps even the work of Vonnegut's creation Kilgore Trout, a fictional writer based on science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon. Vonnegut employed science fiction conceits to shread 20th Century America's free market values. Baum aims at the extended Bush era and the excesses of our media-driven culture. For satire to be totally effective, there have to a few harrowing moments that overwhelm the humor and remind the reader of the story's point. As the book nears its end, the humor broadens, and Baum, faced with resolving his complications, hints at but doesn't quite get to those moments. There's a hell of a death count, but Dresden is never bombed. That said, Baum's The American Book of the Dead is a valuable corrective.