The AmericanJustin Allen
fantasy, young adult
Finally! – the myth and legend that is America has arrived. The American is literary fantasy at its very best – a novel that delves into our myths, legends, hopes, and fears; a coming-of-age fable set in our most fondly remembered (if mostly fictional) past; a story constructed to speak to both the young and anyone who has ever been young; and an adventure more than capable of setting your hair on end.
The American tells the story of Yen Tzu-lu, a child of immigrants unwillingly pressed into service beside a gang of roughnecks, bent on stealing a gold mine from a shadowy villain deep in the western wilderness. Along for the ride are Jack Straw, a famed gunslinger and mystic, Henry Jesus, a former Union soldier and freed slave turned buffalo hunter and marksman, Chino, a Mexican outlaw from California whose very country was yanked out from under him, John MacLemore, a Confederate ex-patriot gone west, and his daughter, a true wild child of the western frontier. They must cross the continent: through desert, plains, canyon and forest; survive run-ins with Union soldiers, Indians both friendly and vicious, wild animals, deadly storms and suspicious settlers. If they make it, they'll be rich. If they don't, they'll almost surely be dead.
With Tzu-lu as our guide, we experience a landscape of legend, stand toe to toe with those larger-than-life heroes and villains of our shared American mythos, and learn the inescapable facts that have both enriched and plagued our nation from its inception. Even as Tzu-lu struggles to come-of-age, learning what it means to be a man despite the most dangerous of circumstances, so too do America's own triumphs and challenges come into greater focus.
Equal parts Mark Twain and Larry McMurtry, this is a book of fabulous adventure and deep resonance. Allen gives readers, both young and not-so-young, a picture of how America sees itself. In so doing he offers up both a heroic vision of the past... and hope for the future.
Justin Allen (born 1974) is an American writer of speculative fiction.
Justin Allen received his MFA in fiction from Columbia University and his BA in philosophy from Boise State University. He is the author of the fantasy epic Slaves of the Shinar. He lives in New York City with his wife, Day.
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons.