Book Review of Anthem by Noah Hawley

Anthem by Noah Hawley is a bleak look at the future of America.

Anthem by Noah Hawley begins with a suicide epidemic, with young people around America ending their lives en-masse. Why? No one knows. Meanwhile, Simon has been sent to the Anxiety Abatement Center after his sister takes her own life and he begins to suffer from panic attacks. While there, he meets the Prophet. Together, they escape from the Center, and the Prophet takes Simon on a mission from God.

You can buy Anthem on eBook, hardback and audiobook from Waterstones, Hive and Amazon, and add it to your TBR on Goodreads.

My review

What a RELIEF to finally finish Anthem. I read to escape and this book is the total opposite. I really didn’t enjoy it. The mass suicide isn’t what made it such a miserable read, it was the depressing facts scattered throughout by the narrator and the ending (which was a non ending). For example, the narrator inserts depressing facts at random points throughout the story, such as:

The Pew Research Centre places the start of Generation Z as 1997, which means our youngest adult generation has never known a time in which their country was not at war. It is their permanent reality. For them, combat is normal, and – in the same way a bee can see only flowers – a country at war comes to accept war as its natural state of being. So we strap on our guns and fight.

I didn’t see the purpose of these sections, other than to make readers feel helpless and despair at the state of the world.

Some of the characters were well written, such as Simon, Louise and Judge Nadir (whose story ultimately went nowhere). These sections were well written with excellent descriptions of depression and anxiety, which felt really accurate.

The whole plot seemed to drift. It starts off about a suicide pandemic, then changes to a story about a Prophet, then finally a rescue during the end of the world. The ending was bad, and I didn’t like the author referencing his daughter asking “how is the book going to end?” as a way to avoid writing an ending. Lots of elements were not really explained, just disappeared without being mentioned again (like the Witch, for example).

Someone else has compared it to a poor Stephen King novel and I’d agree with that. It was overall just not an enjoyable experience to read, it felt half finished and just plain depressing. I recently read An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green which I felt had a similar message but it was a lot more uplifting and enjoyable.

The blurb for Anthem

From the visionary bestselling author of Before the Fall and The Good Fatheran epic literary thriller set where America is right now . . . and the world will be tomorrow.

America spins into chaos as the last remnants of political consensus break apart. Against a background of environmental disaster and opioid addiction, debate descends into violence and militias roam the streets — while teenagers across the world seem driven to self-destruction, communicating by memes only they can understand.

Yet the markets still tick up and the super-rich, like Ty Oliver, fly above the flames in private jets.

After the death of his daughter, Ty dispatches his son Simon to an Anxiety Abatement Center. There he encounters another boy called the Prophet. And the Prophet wants him to join a quest.

Before long, Simon is on the road with a crew of new comrades on a rescue mission as urgent as it is enigmatic. Suddenly heroes of their own story, they are crossing the country in search of a young woman held in a billionaire’s retreat — and, just possibly, the only hope of escape from the apocalypse bequeathed to them by their parents’ generation.

Noah Hawley’s epic literary thriller, full of unforgettably vivid characters, finds unquenchable lights in the darkest corners. Uncannily topical and yet as timeless as a Grimm’s fairy tale, this is a novel of excoriating power, raw emotion and narrative verve, confirming Hawley as one of the most essential writers of our time.

You can buy Anthem on eBook, hardback and audiobook from Waterstones, Hive and Amazon, and add it to your TBR on Goodreads.