It’s a weird world and I’m weird man, in a weird place, not unlike the world Atwood writes about here. The way it’s written though, it’s different, strange, lyricless when compared to her other work. There is this self-aware lack of subtlety here that rings like Orwell and Tolstoy but grates with each act of blunt force.
The main characters are less characters and more stand-ins for bystanders? Deer stuck in headlights? They’re certainly not people. Obviously, this is intentional, but when paired with a world as narrowly focused and white in its backgrounds the entire thing falters. Pair that with a plot that is similarly shallow unconvincing in its horror, humor, or humanity…I’m left unsure what the focus of this book is.
It’s cheap and completely devoid of the grace what made the Maddworld Trilogy such a joy to read. Stan and Charmaine’s very existence is defined by their usefulness to others (both Atwood and the secondary characters). Their thoughts are repetitive, their world possesses nothing new, nothing unique from the more brilliant dystopia she’s played with before.
There are some places where I found myself smiling. The Elvis bit, the woman sexually obsessed with a teddy bear are pretty entertaining. And then it’s right back to the simple, grating (there is that word again) sex complete with women melting into men’s arms with an almost misogynistic constancy.
This book feels like a castoff, something done out of obligation rather than anything near genuine affection. It’s shame, but Atwood is nothing if not prolific, so I suppose I’ll just have to wait for the more thoughtful and poetic Atwood to come back to the reading table.
“That way nobody feels exploited.”
“Wait a minute,” says Stan. “Nobody’s exploited?”
“I said nobody feels exploited,” says Budge. “Different thing.” ― Margaret Atwood, The Heart Goes Last