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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
"What I need is perspective. The illusion of depth, created by a frame, the arrangement of shapes on a flat surface. Perspective is necessary. Otherwise there are only two dimensions. Otherwise you live with your face squashed against a wall, everything a huge foreground, of details, close-ups, hairs, the weave of the bedsheet, the molecules of the face. Your own skin like a map, a diagram of futility, crisscrossed with tiny roads that lead nowhere. Otherwise you live in the moment. Which is not where I want to be."
I could pick a paragraph from practically any page in this book as an example of Margaret Atwood's eloquence. Much as I like her lyrical prose style it took me two attempts to get through this book because I keep thinking of her "I don't write science fiction" stance, and her contention that sf is all robots, aliens and space travels. As if what she writes is too "good" and "literary" to be sf. Still, at the end of the day I suppose it is her prerogative how she wants her books labeled, so I try not to think about how she seems to be disrespecting my favorite genre and just get on with reading the book. Separate the art from the artist, as it were. May be I will harangue her about it if I meet her at the local supermarket. Besides, any one who give a shout out to Twisted Sister in a literary novel is OK in my book. If they make a rock opera out of The Handmaid's Tale "We're Not Gonna Take It" ought to be included in the soundtrack. A theme song for the "Mayday Resistance" perhaps.

This is a book that needs to be read slowly due to its generally solemn tone and numerous passages where the protagonist Offred is ruminating about her past, her current situation, or the state of the world as she perceives it. There is a lot of world building here, but no so much plot. Certainly the The Republic of Gilead (formerly the US of A) is one of the most depressing dystopias I have ever read about. However, as the women seem to be so much worse off than the men the book seems a little imbalanced for me as a male reader. It would have resonated with me much more if most of the populace are suffering under the same conditions regardless of their gender, like they do in Orwell's [b:1984|5470|1984|George Orwell|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348990566s/5470.jpg|153313]. Ms. Atwood refutes the description "feminist dystopia" for this book because men are also oppressed in this society. Certainly some of the men in this book have a very bad time of it, some are hung on walls, some are beaten to death by women, some are shot etc. Nevertheless the first person narrative is from the female protagonist's perspective and the numerous ways in which the women in this society are debased and mistreated are much more expounded upon. The men tend to be punished and mistreated "off screen" so to speak.

The present day narrative is often interspersed with flashbacks to Offred's life before the advent of The Republic of Gilead, almost seamlessly sometime. The degree of oppression and repression she goes through is disturbing but the rather passive tone of the narration makes her ordeal less visceral. I would need to reread this book for a better appreciation of it which I may well do as I find it quite intriguing. However, as I "read" this on audiobook some of it inevitably passed me by while my mind drifted off in other directions (a common problem with audiobooks for me), the printed version works better for a book like this. Any way, a thought provoking dystopian book, not a particular favorite on this first read, but it made me go on to read her highly rated [b:Oryx and Crake|46756|Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam, #1)|Margaret Atwood|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327896599s/46756.jpg|3143431] which is a fabulous book!