The Heart Goes Last is one of the newest books published by a prolific Canadian author, Margaret Atwood. She had already secured a place among the classics with The Handmaid’s Tale, a dystopian story from 1985, currently viewed by some as a prophetic account of the US under Trump and/or alt right. The Handmaid’s Tale is once again in vogue due to a new and currently airing TV series by Hulu, which has garnered glowing critical reviews and very positive audience responses. It won the 2015 Red Tentacle Award (British Kitschies) for the best novel, leaving behind such acclaimed works as Dave Hutchinson’s Europe at Midnight (sequel to Europe in Autumn) or The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, whose earlier book, The Killing Moon, is reviewed here.
Atwood’s credentials are known. She has written dozens of books, all one way or another touching upon contemporary social issues, exploring the themes of security and freedom, equality, violence, sexual exploitation, human liberties, etc. She has a following, and even if her prose is only rarely categorized as a fantasy or science-fiction, many of the themes and ideas are similar in vein to our blog’s main interest. There’s usually a typical s-f, or at least near future, element, be it a social change or innovation, or a biological/medical one.
Today a review of a YA novel, the first installment in a sci-fi dystopian trilogy that made quite a splash a couple of years back. I had been eyeing it for a while, sci-fi and dystopia being my constant points of interest, but the trigger to read this book was a friend’s recommendation – thanks, Dave! 🙂
I’ve read the first book and now am finishing the second. I think I can reasonably well tell you now what that fuss was all about :).
Red Rising was Brown’s debut, and has all the marks of a typical debut – the author is trying to find his voice, the writing is uneven, there are great ideas along some pretty bad ones… The story is YA-ish simple, the list of clear inspirations and allusions to genre literature and pop culture staggering. To sum it up in one sentence, I could say that Red Rising is a smooth mix of Lord of Flies/Ender’s Game/Hunger Games/Harry Potter/Braveheart/Gladiator. It would be completely true, but at the same time a bit unfair to the book. It is unoriginal; there is no point in arguing otherwise when one of the opening scenes is taken straight from Braveheart and the final ones clearly imitate Gladiator, when the whole imagined culture is a sadly trivialized version of the culture of Roman empire and the middle part is basically Ender in Hogwarts. But, surprisingly, I didn’t mind it overly much. Why, when usually I’m so awfully picky? Well, the answer to this will take a good number of sentences to explain, but in short – the worldbuilding and the characters in general, but especially the bloody-minded main protagonist.
Another fairly new book, publicized and talked about a lot, based on a short story Iphigenia in Aulis, which won an Edgar Award. A movie is being made as I write, under a title She Who Brings Gifts, with Glen Close playing one of the main roles. The book strays from my regular literary diet, being a dystopia about zombies, and it didn’t change my tastes, nevertheless I quite enjoyed it.
A dystopia about zombies… Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Thankfully, Carey knows how to play this game, mixing old and new, and, most importantly, concentrating on the characters. It’s a character novel, in essence; a road story, a Bildungsroman of sorts.