Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Volume 1 - The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson

A gothic tale becomes all too shockingly real in this mesmerizing magnum opus by the acclaimed author of FEED.

It sounds like a fairy tale. He is a boy dressed in silks and white wigs and given the finest of classical educations. Raised by a group of rational philosophers known only by numbers, the boy and his mother — a princess in exile from a faraway land — are the only persons in their household assigned names. As the boy's regal mother, Cassiopeia, entertains the house scholars with her beauty and wit, young Octavian begins to question the purpose behind his guardians' fanatical studies. Only after he dares to open a forbidden door does he learn the hideous nature of their experiments — and his own chilling role in them. Set against the disquiet of Revolutionary Boston, M. T. Anderson's extraordinary novel takes place at a time when American Patriots rioted and battled to win liberty while African slaves were entreated to risk their lives for a freedom they would never claim. The first of two parts, this deeply provocative novel reimagines the past as an eerie place that has startling resonance for readers today.
Title and author of book: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Volume 1 - The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson

Fiction or non-fiction? Genre? Historical Fiction. Young Adult. (It's not entirely historical fiction, it is a re-imagined past, but the Revolution really happened and the treatment of the slaves was really like this, so I am calling it historical fiction.)

What led you to pick up this book? I saw a couple reviews and thought it looked interesting. I only had a basic knowledge of what it was about, so I was not entirely sure what I was getting myself into when it came in for me at the library. It is also a Printz book and I am trying to read all the Printz award nominees and winners.

Summarize the plot, but don’t give away the ending! See above...

What did you like most about the book? I liked the writing style. It is told as a diary, for the most part, and it really worked for this novel. Sometimes it can be an annoying style, but if the author can pull it off they can end up with a very readable book. I thought that Anderson pulled it off very well in this book. It allowed Octavian to tell the story to you directly. History is often told by the victors, and we all know how slaves were looked at during the revolution, so it was nice to hear the story from the other side. When circumstances prevented Octavian from telling his story, the author successfully finds other ways to keep the same feel of the book and still tell the story. I actually found the book all really interesting. I used to be a science nerd, but I moved away from it when I was in university, so it is nice to read books that have a science connection once in a while.

What did you like least? That he essentially wrote one big book and divided it in half. I hate that. What ever happened to standalone novels? I am a big reader of series (as well we know, right?) but it would be nice once in a while to read one book and then not have to worry about more. So, in order to find out what happens in the second part of his life, you have to go out and buy another book.

Have you read any other books by this author? What did you think of those books? No, but I will be soon. I have the sequel out from the library and it is also a Printz book.

What did you think of the main character? I was never really sure. One minute I really liked Octavian and the next he seemed like an entirely different person and I wasn't sure if I liked him anymore. It fits his circumstances, of course, but that doesn't mean I always liked the person. He just grows up. When the book starts, Octavian is very young and rather naive about what is going on around him. He only knows the life that he has been leading and the people he interacts with on a regular basis. He has essentially lived a very sheltered existence. The world is changing, though, so he can not stay innocent forever. You really see Octavian grow during this book. He is not entirely the same person at the end of the book as he was at the beginning.

What about the ending? In a way, I already touched on this. The book doesn't really end. It is just the first half, so I guess you will have to wait until I read the second half to really know what I think about the book.

Overall, I liked this book and recommend it!

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful review. This whole series is on my TBR. Maqybe I`ll get to it one of these days.