So this novel has a lot going for it. I think the initial premise is really good. I think a lot about what would/will happen when there’s a huge environmental or financial crash that topples the total authority of governments to the point that there are corporate enclaves we swear fealty to. I personally will select Amazon because they’re clearly going to be the biggest, have the best supply chains, and I very honestly have thought about what it might mean to live on an Amazon corporate campus and teach employees’ children about the world. Maybe it will never happen, but I have been a customer since 1998, so, I’ve put my time in.
Anyway, in this novel we have a post financial crisis future in which Stan and Charmaine are living in their car and have two basic options: turn to Stan’s criminal brother for help or turn to an overly utopian sounding enclave that uses your labor and your imprisonment as a way to promote self-sufficiency.
The premise goes from there and….well, gets weird. And weird is fine, but it gets so weird so fast, that the original premise falls by the wayside and it’s really like we’re in a different novel at that point. That’s the weakness…that there’s a too sharp pivot from one thing to the next. Thematically it’s connected to body autonomy, which is obviously a huge trope and motif for Atwood. But the pivot is too sharp. The other significant issue is a confused tone throughout. It’s hard to pinpoint where and why it feels erratic, but it does.
I am glad she went on to write Hagseed. I think that is a very strong novel and I am glad this is a dip and not a final fall.