Finished The Handmaid's Tale - Jay Maynard

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Sunday, 21 November 2004


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1448 - Finished The Handmaid's Tale

I finally sat down and finished Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale. I have no trouble understanding bronxelf_ag001's horror at the prospect of such a society actually coming to pass. Along the same lines, I'd suggest she stay away from several other modern SF series. It seems that many writers fall back on the concept of hyper-fundamentalist Christianity as dystopia. Examples I've read recently include David Drake's Honor Harrington universe, specifically the planet Masada; James Doohan and S. M. Stirling's Flight Engineer series' villains, the Mollies; and Elizabeth Moon's Familias Regnant series, where one planet, New Texas, has a similar concept of women as property valued only for work and childbearing. I emailed Moon after reading whichever book it was where she introduced that society, taking her to task over propagating an oversimplistic stereotype of Texans, and she replied that she lived not far outside Austin (which I wasn't aware of) and that she knew several families nearby who were even more fundamentalist than the ones she wrote about in the book.

As foolscap001 pointed out in a previous comment, The Handmaid's Tale paints a vivid picture of a dystopia as a common SF plot device. What it failed to do for me, though, is convincingly explain how it happened. I doubt that was Atwood's intent, and in any case the novel stands on its own without it. However, in order for it to be an example of where this country will be headed if we don't somehow get the Religious Right under control, there must somehow be a reason to believe there's a way to get there from here. A half page of story about a massacre of the President and Congress, and a suspension of the Constitution, isn't enough - and that's not what would happen in the real world in those circumstances anyway.

I'm not about to tell a woman she has nothing to be scared of should Roe v. Wade be overturned. I cannot, however, share in the consternation about the subject evident in the reaction to the recent elections. It's a slippery slope argument, and nobody's yet shown that there's a can of Teflon, or even Crisco, waiting to pour.

current mood: [mood icon] bored

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Comments:


[User Picture]
From:phanatic
Date: - 0000
(Link)
Atwood's just a really, really bad writer. Here's the review I wrote of her latest:

Do Not Steal This Book
It's not worth it. It's a Bad Book.

I speak of Margaret Atwood's latest, Oryx and Crake. It's a politically-inspired cautionary tale dressed up as science fiction, and that makes it the worst sort of sci-fi. The message is that bioengineering will KILL US ALL! DEAR GOD NO! BOOGA BOOGA!

Of course, to convey this none-too-subtle point, she presents the reader with a plot whose course would be glaringly obvious even had she abandoned the heavy-handed foreshadowing, characters who in addition to telegraphing every single action with gigantic semaphor flags, are just plain stupid (in the post-apocalyptic future brought about by man's trafficking in Things He Was Not Meant to Know, the protagonist first obtains and then simply forgets, leaves behind, abandons, a working send/receive radio and a firearm), and an evil mastermind who is so malignantly and blatantly sociopathic that no real world biotech firm would trust him with the keys to the janitorial closet without keeping him under direct supervision at all times.

It's technically well written, but it's still crap. Stay well away.

[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
(Link)
Damn. Don't hold back. Tell us what you really think.

The Handmaid's Tale didn't strike me as being that badly written...it's just that the future it explores is not, to me, a plausible future for our world.
[User Picture]
From:phanatic
Date: - 0000
(Link)
Oh, hey, apropos of nothing in particular, did you see the winners of the City of Heroes costume contest?
[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
(Link)
No, I hadn't...here they go again, making me feel inadequate...

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