... a hefty page-turner that’s equal parts horrific, catastrophic and, at times, strangely entertaining ... The off-the-rails world of Anthem will certainly be recognizable to readers—from the vigilante warfare on the streets to the life-threatening environmental calamities occurring on a frequent basis to the troubling tectonics of the U.S. political landscape. A large cast of heroes and villains populate the narrative (to the point where it can be difficult to keep everyone straight). Given the number of characters, only a handful of interior lives—namely Simon Oliver’s and Louise Conklin’s—are developed with any nuance or complexity ... Despite the breakneck speed of the narrative, there is an episodic rhythm to the pacing; one catastrophe piles on top of the other. Speaking to Hawley’s talents as a screenwriter, his dialogue brings the characters alive. Again and again, the exchanges are humorous, sad and revealing ... On the one hand, I appreciated the way he pauses the frenetic pace of the novel to contextualize his vision and intentions. On the other, these sections often read like an extended op-ed about the author’s views on the broken state of our nation. That said, this literary mechanism succeeds at unexpected moments ... Hawley’s concerns as a father ground this plump, pyrotechnic novel, giving its dramatic violence and outcome more depth and meaning.
...no one could ever accuse the author and award-winning creator of the television series Fargo of skimping on plot. His action-stuffed follow-up to Before the Fall is an exciting cautionary tale that addresses just about every social ill facing Western civilization ... Anthem touches on just about every contentious topic one could name, from gun culture and climate change to race relations, extremist politicians and the 'yelling box' that is the internet. The novel would have been stronger if Hawley had blended his themes more seamlessly into the narrative rather than letting his characters give speeches, but many of his painstakingly crafted scenes read like an action movie in book form.
an emotionally stark and brilliant work of fiction from the talented mind of Noah Hawley (Before the Fall). Humanity has never seemed so forlorn, but the multi-faceted and resolute characters highlighted throughout the book carry the torch to get the story home. This release is a must-read book for the New Year and years to come.
Hawley the fiction writer is at his best when pitching his taut setup and its well-drawn cast of characters. The mystery of the dying teenagers, and the Prophet’s quest to confront a mysterious cruel man named the Wizard, will solidly hook in readers. The book’s premise is aided by its vivid characterizations ... After its promising opening sequences, though, Anthem loses its considerable magnetism and fails to regain it. The book’s focus frays and dissipates; chapters invest in new characters only to abandon them pages later, surge in new story directions before hitting a wall and limping back to an increasingly brittle main plot. These narrative moves feel less like daring experimentation and more like signs that the author has lost interest in his own novel and is looking for a new one.
Saturated with purpose, its attempt to Say Something Serious — 'to create coherence from incoherence,' as the author puts it — often devolves into didacticism. The result is a novel that feels like having the front-page headlines of the newspaper explained to you ... To keep the didactic element entertaining, Hawley augments the stakes ... The author’s attempts to articulate the severity of the catastrophe are cartoonish. Emotions become generalizations ... The novel gamely captures the exterior energy of the moment without sharing its interior reverberations ... depth is not Hawley’s game. He’s prone to reduction and explains Louise’s brazenness in one sentence ... One senses that the elements in Anthem are subordinate to generating excitement; they’re set pieces for an action scene ... It seems we’re meant to find in Anthem some sort of deep resonance. Yet Hawley is merely reflecting a world — and reflections are flat. Each character represents an archetype or condition ... Awash in political and cultural abstractions, Anthem becomes a sort of shadow. There is no visceral commentary at work here, only the light of real life projected onto caricatured cutouts, their dull shapes moving ceaselessly about the page.
Hawley has written some of the most savage satire since Jonathan Swift, creating a ridiculous world in which only the young are viable. The plot-rich, cinematic story moves swiftly and compellingly, exciting reader interest and empathy. Anthem is truly an epic adventure.
... [a] grim, thought-provoking near-future thriller ... From the ominous sentence that opens the main narrative...the author creates an all-too-plausible dystopia rendered believable through matter-of-fact prose. Hawley makes this sing by combining the social commentary of a Margaret Atwood novel with the horrors of a Stephen King book.
Hawley is a TV veteran, and he knows how to quickly establish character, maintain pacing, and write excellent action scenes. But this very long book is stuffed with far too many characters, half-developed ideas, and asides from the author that would be more at home in an op-ed than a novel. Almost everyone who's mentioned gets a chapter from their own perspective, resulting in either a promising thread that goes nowhere or a passage that could easily have been skipped without losing anything pertinent to the story. Simultaneously too much and not enough.