This one started out great but went downhill about 2/3rds of the way through. I love Margaret Atwood, and I don’t mind when she gets a little weird, but this one had just a little too much weirdness for me.
“I don’t think they’ll ever replace the living and breathing,” says Gary. “They said that about e-books,” says Kevin. “You can’t stop progress.”
Sometime in the (probably near) future, the economy has gone way downhill. After losing their jobs, Charmaine and Stan have been reduced to living a dangerous life in their car, surviving off Charmaine’s meager tips. They hear about an opportunity one day to live in a new community, Consilience, a social experiment meant to overcome this depression and get the world back on track. The catch — each person lives in a regular house, doing a regular job, for a month at a time. On the alternating months, they live in a prison, performing hard labor. Charmaine and Stan sign up, but when they each become indiviually obsessed with the other couple that lives in their house (on the alternate months), they begin to see the cracks and dangers in this system.
The book starts out great — Atwood paints a terrifying picture of where the world could be heading, with educated, hardworking people forced to perform any job, any task, just to keep living. And the set up of Consilience — the creepy CEO, the job that Charmaine performs at the prison — is great. Very spooky. I love that the company in charge of all this is called Positron — a nod to the Dark Tower, perhaps? But once the conspiracy gets broken open, and so much pressure gets put on Charmaine and Stan, I feel like it started to fall apart. Some of the plotlines (the sex dolls) cracked me up, but Charmaine and Stan were so unlikable that I had trouble continuing to root for them.