Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood earned a touch of literary immortality with the oft-read The Handmaids Tail.  Since that award-winning novel was published in 1985, she has continued to write award-winning, sociologically challenging speculative fiction (a term she prefers to "science fiction").  Her 2015 novel The Heart Goes Last continues some of the themes of her earlier novels, but doesn't quite deliver the punch that her readers are accustomed to.

The Heart Goes Last is set in a company town.  Residents who have run out of luck in the economy at large are invited to move into Consilience, a secure compound in which they will work, have a place to live, and lack for nothing.  The catch is that for one month they will live and work freely at home, but every other month they have to be locked up in the prison on the grounds.

Things work out swimmingly for Stan and Charmaine for a while--until they don't.  Charmaine has a forbidden fling, and works hard to cover it while she keeps it going.  Meanwhile a rebellion is brewing in Consilience, and Charmaine gets wrapped up in it.  When they do leave Consilience, the weirdness and randomness spins too far out of control.

I did not enjoy The Heart Goes Last as much as I have some of Atwood's other fiction.  As original as she has been in her novels, this one felt more derivative, as if she had hopped on the bandwagon of post-apocalyptic teen fiction.  Granted, many of her novels can be classified as post-apocalyptic, but I hadn't felt the Hunger Games vibe in the others like I did with this one.  I also wasn't a big fan of her characters.  Charmaine's fling is so out of character.  Her lover and his co-conspirators seemed unconvincing to me.  Charmaine's husband, Stan, poor guy, has a rough time.  Justice is finally done, sort of, but I didn't particularly enjoy the path to get there.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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