- Young Adult Fiction
- The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 1: The Pox Party
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 1: The Pox Party
For as long as he can remember, Octavian has lived with his mother Cassiopeia in the College of Lucidity, a strange place where men are addressed by numbers and every aspect of Octavian's life is carefully recorded for scientific purposes. He is taught Latin and Greek, for the objective of the men at the College of Lucidity is to determine whether or not Octavian, the son of an African princess, is the equal of a European prince. The experiments are not prejudiced- if anything, the men hope he will succeed- until the College of Lucidity gains a new sponsor, Mr. Sharpe, who has a keen interest in proving that Africans are inferior and deserve to be the slaves of white men.
This book has won numerous awards and had its praises sung by many authors and critics, but I only just read it. I am not sure why I was avoiding it, but I would probably never have picked it up had it not been for the fact that I was developing a bit of a guilt complex. Once I had it in my hands, though, I was eager to finish it.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed M. T. Anderson's other books for, though it moves from the future to the past, it is very similar to Feed.
I tried to finish the whole thing; I really did. I mean, it won a Printz Honor Award and is extraordinarily unique in its use of old-style language (think classics). But I just couldnt do it.
Octavian and his mother Cassiopeia are the only inhabitants at a scientific college who have real first names; everyone else is numbered by rank. Great philosophers document his every bowel movement, his thoughts, his education, and his successes on the violin. Reading a bit further, we find out that Octavian and Cassiopeia are black, and that Cassiopeia was an African princess sold into slavery. Still, Octavians mother holds herself like a queen, and entertains all the scholars with her dazzling beauty and wit.
The young Octavian discovers one day that he is part of an experiment to prove that Africans could, with the proper education, be every bit as superior as the typical white prince. Octavian goes about his studies and life without question&until, some years after the college started, they run into financial troubles. Their new financial benefactor is Mr. Sharpe, a man from a group of Southern investors who is determined to prove that Africans are, in fact, incapable of being on par with whites.
Octavians lifestyle changes drastically as he is demoted from the privileged prince of the house to a common servant, only with the additional burdens of having to read dull passages that make him lose his former interests in his studies and love of music. They want Octavian to fail, and so far he seems to be doing just that.
The novels concept is very interesting, but many readers will undoubtedly find it hard to slog through Andersons difficult vocabulary, a vocabulary that even many college students will have trouble understanding. However, it does give this book its own characteristic. I can only say that for those who are able to make it through this book, they should not be disappointed.