Noah Hawley‘s latest novel Anthem offers a disturbing yet captivating vision of a near-future America plagued by political strife, climate disaster, and teenage suicide. Published in January 2022, the book has garnered attention for its timely themes and fast-paced, cinematic storytelling. In this review, I will give a quick plot overview, an extended summary analyzing major themes and characters, discuss its intended audience, highlight key takeaways, and provide background on the author.
The novel follows Simon Oliver, heir to a pharmaceutical company fortune, whose life is upended when his sister Claire dies by suicide, part of a disturbing epidemic sweeping the nation. Simon is admitted to an elite psychiatric facility after having an anxiety attack, where he meets a mysterious Prophet who convinces him to escape and join a band of youths on a mission to take down the sinister billionaire E.L. Mobley. This Epstein-like figure is notorious for abusing girls and evading consequences due to his wealth. Simon and his friends set out to bring Mobley to justice.
Anthem paints a grim portrait of an America plagued by political extremism, catastrophic climate change, a mental health crisis, and a rigged system that lets the wealthy operate with impunity. Hawley explores timely themes around mental illness, income inequality, sexual abuse, and the corruption of power. The plot hurtles forward at an exhilarating pace yet thoughtfully develops key characters like Simon, his fierce ally Louise, and the enigmatic Prophet. Hawley’s thriller aspects keep the pages turning while deeper questions percolate about societal malaise, trauma’s impact on youth, and the courage required to stand up to institutionalized injustice.
While the expansive cast and globe-trotting plot make the novel crowded at times, Hawley’s terrific dialogue and cinematic action scenes shine. The story’s darker moments are leavened by the hope found in human connection. Though painting a dystopian scenario, Anthem ultimately carries an optimistic message about marginalized voices speaking truth to corrupt power structures.
Who Should Read This Book
With its high-octane plot, Anthem will best appeal to fans of literary thrillers and dystopian fiction. It contains appeal for general fiction readers as well, particularly those interested in exploring current issues through a fast-paced, plot-driven narrative.
- Unchecked greed and power enable systemic abuse of the vulnerable and marginalized.
- Trauma, anxiety, and mental health issues in teens merit more compassion and support.
- Radical openness, human connection, and speaking truth to power can spark positive change.
- Income inequality and political toxicity have created an untenable status quo.
- Corruption must be confronted if justice and progress are to prevail.
About the Author
Noah Hawley is an Emmy-winning television producer, screenwriter, and author best known for creating the anthology TV series Fargo. His other novels include Before the Fall and A Good Man. Hawley excels at using propulsive, cinematic storytelling to explore complex contemporary themes.