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The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II
Cover of The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II
The Kingdom on the Waves

"A novel of the first rank, the kind of monumental work Italo Calvino called 'encyclopedic' in the way it sweeps up history into a comprehensible and deeply textured pattern." — The New York Times Book Review

Fearing a death sentence, Octavian and his tutor, Dr. Trefusis, escape through rising tides and pouring rain to find shelter in British-occupied Boston. Sundered from all he knows — the College of Lucidity, the rebel cause — Octavian hopes to find safe harbor. Instead, he is soon to learn of Lord Dunmore's proclamation offering freedom to slaves who join the counterrevolutionary forces.

In Volume II of his unparalleled masterwork, M. T. Anderson recounts Octavian's experiences as the Revolutionary War explodes around him, thrusting him into intense battles and tantalizing him with elusive visions of liberty. Ultimately, this astonishing narrative escalates to a startling, deeply satisfying climax, while reexamining our national origins in a singularly provocative light.

"A novel of the first rank, the kind of monumental work Italo Calvino called 'encyclopedic' in the way it sweeps up history into a comprehensible and deeply textured pattern." — The New York Times Book Review

Fearing a death sentence, Octavian and his tutor, Dr. Trefusis, escape through rising tides and pouring rain to find shelter in British-occupied Boston. Sundered from all he knows — the College of Lucidity, the rebel cause — Octavian hopes to find safe harbor. Instead, he is soon to learn of Lord Dunmore's proclamation offering freedom to slaves who join the counterrevolutionary forces.

In Volume II of his unparalleled masterwork, M. T. Anderson recounts Octavian's experiences as the Revolutionary War explodes around him, thrusting him into intense battles and tantalizing him with elusive visions of liberty. Ultimately, this astonishing narrative escalates to a startling, deeply satisfying climax, while reexamining our national origins in a singularly provocative light.

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  • ATOS:
  • Lexile:
    1060
  • Interest Level:
  • Text Difficulty:
    6 - 9

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About the Author-
  • M. T. Anderson is an accomplished author of a wide range of titles, including works of fantasy and satire, for readers of various ages. He studied English literature at Harvard University and Cambridge University and went on to receive his MFA in Creative Writing from Syracuse University.

    M. T. Anderson is known for challenging readers to look at the world in new ways. "We write because we can't decipher things the first time around," he says. His previous books include Thirsty, a vampire novel; Burger Wuss, a revenge story set in a fast-food emporium; and Feed, a futuristic satirical novel widely lauded as one of the most important and pioneering works of the recent dystopian craze. A finalist for the National Book Award, Feed received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize or YA fiction in 2003 and a Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor.

    The author's passion for history and classical music were inspirations for his sophisticated and much-lauded epic The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation,Volume I: The Pox Party, a National Book Award Winner, and Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves. The two novels, both Michael L. Printz Honor recipients, trace the story of a fictional slave in pre–Revolutionary War Boston — 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.

    M. T. Anderson's work may be best known for its sophisticated wit and storylines, highlighting his belief that young people are more intelligent than some might think. When asked why he gives so much credit to his young audience, Anderson says that "Our survival as a nation rests upon the willingness of the young to become excited and engaged by new ideas we never considered as adults."

    M. T. Anderson was an instructor at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where he now serves as a board member. From 2003–2012, he also served on the board of the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance, a national nonprofit organization that advocates or literacy, literature, and libraries. He has published stories for adults in literary journals such as the Northwest Review, the Colorado Review, and Conjunctions. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 18, 2006
    Anderson (Whales on Stilts
    ) once again shows the breadth of his talents with this stunningly well-researched novel (the first of two planned) centering on 16-year-old Octavian. The author does not reveal the boy's identity right away, so by the time readers learn that he is the son of an African princess, living a life of relative privilege and intense scrutiny among a group of rational philosophers in pre–Revolutionary War Boston, they can accept his achievements—extraordinary for any teen, but especially for an African-American living at that time. These men teach him the violin, Latin and Greek. Anderson also reveals their strange quirks: the men go by numbers rather than names, and they weigh the food Octavian ingests, as well as his excrement. "It is ever the lot of children to accept their circumstances as universal, and their particularities as general," Octavian states by way of explanation. One day, at age eight, when he ventures into an off-limits room, Octavian learns he is the subject of his teachers' "zoological" study of Africans. Shortly thereafter, the philosophers' key benefactor drops out and new sponsors, led by Mr. Sharpe, follow a different agenda: they want to use Octavian to prove the inferiority of the African race. Mr. Sharpe also instigates the "Pox Party" of the title, during which the guests are inoculated with the smallpox virus, with disastrous results. Here the story, which had been told largely through Octavian's first-person narrative, advances through the letters of a Patriot volunteer, sending news to his sister of battle preparations against the British and about the talented African musician who's joined their company. As in Feed
    , Anderson pays careful attention to language, but teens may not find this work, written in 18th-century prose, quite as accessible. The construction of Octavian's story is also complex, but the message is straightforward, as Anderson clearly delineates the hypocrisy of the Patriots, who chafe at their own subjugation by British overlords but overlook the enslavement of people like Octavian. Ages 14-up.

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    Candlewick Press
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The Kingdom on the Waves
M. T. Anderson
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