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Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America Hardcover – June 23, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1St Edition edition (June 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765319713
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765319715
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,034,017 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Hugo-winner Wilson (Axis) perpetrates a kind of skewed steampunk novel set in a postcollapse, imperial United States returned to 19th-century technology and mores. Julian Comstock, the disgraced nephew of the tyrannical American president, grows up in a small town in what was formerly northern Canada. Adam Hazzard, Julian's working-class friend, and Sam Godwin, a bluff old retainer and secret Jew, struggle to keep Julian alive despite his uncle's hatred and Julian's proclivity for annoying the repressive Dominion Church. When Julian is drafted to fight the invading Dutch in Labrador, exaggerated tales of his heroism, written by would-be novelist Adam, catapult the young aristocrat to unwanted fame. Written with the eloquence and elegance of a Victorian novel, this thoughtful tale combines complex characters, rousing military adventure and a beautifully realized, unnerving future. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—After the disasters of the 21st century that resulted in the deaths of millions of its citizens, the United States retreats from technology and urban life. Social classes are sharply distinguished, and a centralized Protestant Church plays a powerful role in both politics and everyday life. President Deklan Comstock is periodically reelected without opposition. Despite his apparent stranglehold on power, he views his nephew, a child named Julian, as a potential future rival. In an effort to protect her son, Julian's mother sends him to be raised in a remote village in the Western states, where he becomes fast friends with a local lad, the narrator of this tale. Forced to flee their village to avoid the military draft, they make their way eastward where, after many adventures, Julian at last faces his uncle. On one level, this is a straightforward adventure story in the tradition of G.A. Henty or Oliver Optic. Throughout the narrative, however, there runs an engaging philosophical examination of the nature of society, the individual, truth, power, idealism, and change, which adds to the drama while foreshadowing Julian's eventual fate. Teens looking for a meaty adventure will enjoy this book, as will those looking for provocative science fiction, while readers aspiring to careers in politics will find much to contemplate.—Sandy Schmitz, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Customer Reviews

The skill with which Wilson pulls this amazing trick off is simply dizzying.
The setting is unoriginal, the characters are mostly boring, very little happens for such a large novel and the author is unbelievably naive.
Leslie A Munday
If you prefer a well written story and don't want to be preached at by your light reading then I'd say skip this one.
Daniel is Daniel

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Robert Charles Wilson's Julian Comstock: A Story of the 22nd Century was pressed into my hands by my editor, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, seconds after I told him that I absolutely, positively could not take any more books with me because I was totally snowed under, a year behind on my reading. "Read this one," he said. "It's worth it."

It was worth it.

The early jacket copy for Julian Comstock reads, in part, "If Jules Verne had read Karl Marx, then sat down to write The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, he still wouldn't have matched the invention and exuberance of Robert Charles Wilson's Julian Comstock." Damn right.

Julian is the story of a world sunk into feudal barbarism, 150 years after Peak Oil, plagues, economic collapse and war left the planet in tatters. Now, America (grown to encompass most of Canada, save for deeply entrenched Dutch and "mitteleuropean" forces in the now-verdant Labrador) is ruled over by a mad hereditary president, whose power is buoyed up by the Dominion, a religious authority that represents the true power in a nation where the new First Amendment guarantees the right to worship at any sanctioned church of your choosing.

The president's nephew, Julian Comstock, has been squirreled away to "Athabaska" to escape the attention of his uncle, who has already assassinated Julian's father, fearing a coup. In the bucolic Alberta farms, Comstock befriends Adam Hazzard, the charming, naive and eloquent narrator of the story. Hazzard is the son of a bondsman who is attached to the feudal territory of the local lord, and is an outcast due to his adherence to a disfavored sect of snake-handlers.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Stefan VINE VOICE on June 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Robert Charles Wilson's new novel "Julian Comstock" is set in a vastly changed 22nd century USA - after the end of the age of oil and atheism has ended in disaster. Technology is mostly back to pre-20th century levels, and the population has been vastly reduced due to social upheaval and disease. Society has become fully class-based, divided in a Eupatridian aristocracy, middle-class lease-men, and indentured servants. The country - which now stretches across most of the North American continent - is involved in a lengthy and brutal war with the Dutch over control of the recently opened Northwest passage.

In this setting we meet the novel's extraordinary hero, Julian Comstock, the nephew of the dictatorial president Deklan Comstock. Julian is a free-thinker with a deep interest in the apostate Charles Darwin (whose heretical theories are anathema to the Dominion of Jesus Christ, one of the three branches of the government with the president and the senate). Julian is forced to flee his country hide-out with his friend Adam (the amazing narrator of the novel) and Sam Godwin, who is Julian's mentor since his father died in battle - his father being Bryce Comstock, army commander and brother of the president, who was sent into a hopeless conflict by Deklan, fearing his brother's growing popularity would endanger his own tyrannical rule.

While all of this may sound grim, the tone of this story is often actually very light thanks to Adam, the narrator, who combines a certain naivete with a generally positive outlook on life and a willingness to see the good in everything. Adam often doesn't fully understand what is happening, and sometimes his general decency forces him to brush over certain things.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Nathaniel Mishkin on July 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I really liked Wilson's other books (esp. The Chronoliths and Blind Lake), but Julian Comstock was a bit of a slog for me. I found the general premise to be interesting, but the characters were pretty two-dimensional (as opposed to the characters in his other books, which I found to be pretty well fleshed out) and the dynamics of a society structured along the lines imagined and with the history given seemed insufficiently plumbed. I would have liked fewer words spent on battle details and more spent on those dynamics.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As with any science fiction book, one has the science part and the fiction part of the story to contend with. The story itself is very, very well written and Robert Charles Wilson has a feeling for writing the many in this genre do not have. His personal point of view narrative could have come straight out of a nineteenth century adventure story. If there's anything wrong with the story itself it is that it is overly long and drawn out and I almost didn't finish it because I was getting so seriously bored towards the end of the novel. It could do with better editing, I think. But otherwise, absolutely good. Some sections of the story use the first person naivety device to step around topics such as homosexuality and a poor grasp of foreign languages (both the french and the dutch phrases in the book have errors in them - I speak both), but it is a clever tool to use to present a characters biases and thoughts as not being ones own.

The science part is where I had the real problems with this book. I could vaguely imagine that the USA could fall into a religiously dominated, backward state if modern civilisation were to fall, given how much of the USA seems to be in that camp anyway, but I can not believe that they would end up using almost the same language as was used in the nineteenth century. I find it even harder to believe that the rest of the world would do the same and forget almost all technological advances simply because there were no more oil left. The example from the book of the Americans using machine guns and the Europeans not having any strikes me as simply ludicrous.
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