I will give this book a pass because it does get better towards the end, but to explain would ruin the reason for which the book gets good! More relevantly I don’t think it’s as good as The Power, but it’s definitely an engaging book.
Despite only having read one book by David Eggers (The Circle) I do get a similar vibe from Alderman’s work. The genre is scifi, set in a near future that seems rather reasonable but with a few tweaks that are exaggerations of trends we can already see happening. That’s what makes the best dystopian (is The Power a utopia? Discuss) fiction–that we can see how we get from here (Dobbs) to there (Gilead).
There’s a vague background disaster going on throughout this novel, as noted above it’s our world with the dial turned to 11. Climate change is causing regular environmental catastrophes, moderately mitigated by safe environmental zones that are no-go for humans. There’s lots of polarization, and comment sections continue to be cesspools. Refugee crises aren’t just a thing that happens to brown people over ~there. Survivalist TikTokers are capable of getting large audiences. And on top of that, basically all of technology is controlled by one of three corporations: TechCo, ShippingDistributionCo, and SoftwareCo (or so I think. I don’t fully recall the delineation of the three, because all three are Billzosuskberg clones who think that they’re geniuses and deserve to be rich and in charge.
And then…there’s the Big Disaster, the one that kicks off the events of the novel (our three rich billionaires/trillionaires are spirited away in advance of a cataclysm, the details of which are not yet clear). Timelines jump backwards and forwards in a way that is a bit annoying at the outset, because we don’t really care for any of the characters, and then becomes super engrossing because we do and it doesn’t feel like a cheap trip to create tension where there would otherwise be none. The plot goes to places that I personally didn’t expect, and these days I’d say I’m maybe 60th percentile in terms of guessing what’s going to happen (up from..30th, maybe, a few years back).
At the end of the day, Alderman is a Atwood with optimism…but for a world that’s clearly so far beyond our own that there’s no real lessons to be learnt.