Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood really is smarter than anyone else out there writing novels. I remember feeling like I hadn't quite understood what all of Oryx and Crake was trying to tell me, though I thoroughly enjoyed it; but The Handmaid's Tale was just absolutely superb dystopian fiction. I'd place it up there with the greats - 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World. If you liked any of those, you should read this.

It's the story of a woman who lives through the foundation of the Republic of Gilead, theocratic totalitarian state that replaced the United States. She is (somehow) leaving a memoir of her time, and describing how she lives, and how people are treated in this new regime. It is very reminiscent of 1984, with the complete lockdown and control of society; but in this case it's all based on God's Will and the Bible. It's very much a Christian version of the Taliban. Given the current trends in US politics, and some of the loopy christian movements springing up, this book gives a scary premonition of a possible future. It was published in 1985, but the future it portrays seems even more possible now than then.


Krin said...

I loved the Handmaid's Tale, however I foudn that Oryx and Crake has gotten into my soul. Possibly because I work in Sustainability policy and programs and so I can see how that world could come to pass more than I can the world created in The Handmaid's Tale.

Have you read After the Flood? It's Oryx and Crake from a different perspective (members of God's Gardeners sect) and expands up on the themes set up in Oryx and Crake. I'm hanging out for the third book she's currently writing to tie up the entire tale.

I do agree that she is smarter than any other writer out there, at least any other writer in the SF space.

Danzilla said...

I haven't read After The Flood - I might try re-reading oryx and drake first. My feeling was that I'd understood the main gist of the plot, but missed something big :/

But I've read a lot around the whole Culture Wars that are going on in the US - being a strong atheist and a US citizen make these issues relevant to me; and so this book resonated strongly with me

I've got several of Atwood's other books sitting on my to-read list as well.