In the summer of 2016 my boyfriend read and loved A Handmaids Tale. He told me I had to read it, so I checked the library and it was immediately available, and I [unproudly] pushed it down my TBR. I checked last week and there is now a TEN week waiting list for that ebook! Dystopian novels definitely weren’t my thing pre-election, and still now after reading/listening to three of them, I’m still not sure.
After a recommendation from a friend, I bought in to the dystopian trend and read one this past winter. It was The Plot Against America by Phillip Roth, which tells the story of the world in WWII, if a Nazi sympathizer were elected as president. I wrote a review here – but bottom line is I really enjoyed it, and then no longer felt the need to indulge myself on further dystopian thrills.
Last month, my boyfriend and I drove across the country, and he decided to listen to Brand New World by Aldous Huxley on audiobook. This dystopian explores a world where humans are a commodity, are born for a specific purpose, and are “conditioned” to have certain opinions. Obviously, someone stirs the pot, and aha, we have a story. I learned from this experience that I am not a auditory learner because I could not focus, and only caught bits and pieces of this book. But still, I resolved, I am good on the dystopian thing. No more, thanks.
THEN, when I to San Diego, and I really missed my book club, I thought to myself, ‘what’s the craziest thing that could happen if I searched for book clubs on meet up?’. Well my wildest dream came true and there was a book club in my neighborhood, reading books I might like to read, and was meeting this Sunday! I did my googling on Wednesday, which gave me three days to read this book from start to finish. I told my boyfriend that I could never do that, I’ll go to the July meeting, and he looked at me (on my fourth and final week of fun-employment) and said “yes you can”. So I downloaded it on my kindle, got to reading, and finished the book in two days flat!
Why am I telling you this, well mostly I love the context behind books and reading books, and second I am now a self proclaimed expert on dystopian novels.
So, the most obvious question to me is, when dystopian novels are all the rage, what makes this one different?
My Answer: this book is so HUMAN. It’s not an alternate reality – in the far past or the far future – it is our shared reality of today’s world dealt an epidemic that wipes out 90% of the earth’s population within three weeks. For a few days after reading this one, I diagnosed myself with multiple chronic illnesses (Why is web MD always there when you don’t need to be freaked out?) and denied it anytime my boyfriend asked if I had a cold (it’s allergies, damnit!).
What I think this book does so well is illustrates the things you would lose – my favorite scene is the entire book is about half way through when Craig illustrates his personal end of the world. The gem of this book lies in discovering this process for yourself and letting it resonate slowly – so I will end this here, and tell you to experience it for yourself.
The thing I didn’t like, to be honest, is the overarching story line. The thing I couldn’t shake is the way Arthur died in the first scene. (Again, this is the first scene, so no spoilers, but) Arthur did not die of the “epidemic”. I felt that it was too close, yet too far from the plot of the book, and I could never reconcile the two. I really wanted it to either come full circle or be totally disconnected and it just fell in between.
The story unfolds over the course of the lives of the people involved on the night of Arthurs death, but I always felt like the connections between them were cheesy. Whenever an object was mentioned in one scene, you knew it would be in another, and when it was mentioned there it felt forced. I never felt a particular tie between the characters and that was a serious let down.
So, since life got busy, and I never made it to the book club on this past Sunday, I needed to unravel my feelings here. And those feelings are, read this book if you want to feel human – if climate change or nuclear warfare or any other thing that may take the earth as we know it away from us scares you, read this book. But I would not read this book with the anticipation of feeling real feelings for the characters. Ultimately I put the book down feeling content, with the intention of cautiously recommended it to a friend.
If you’re in to dystopians, pick up a copy, and please please please, tell me what you think!