Okay, so you probably know that Margaret Atwood has a new(ish) book called The Heart Goes Last. I mean, if you are an Atwood fan or any degree you know this. And you probably know the premise too, which is awesome. But I’ll give you some details in case you don’t.
It’s the near future. Much of America has suffered a total economic collapse and people who have always played by the rules are shit out of luck. Meet Stan and Charmaine, a young couple clinging to the remnants of their normal american life while living meal to meal in their car, scrambling to stay safe from marauding gangs and lone crazies in this dystopic post-collapse America. Totally hooked, right? I KNOW.
Just when they think that there is no hope for a better future, Charmaine sees an add for Consilience, an experimental community where all of your daily needs are met in exchange for… for what? That part is unclear. It seems too good to be true, but who cares, because the first two levels of Maslow’s pyramid are covered here. Basic subsistence (food, water, shelter, sleep…) and security are guaranteed. Stan and Charmaine’s life in their car is lacking in even these most fundamental needs being met, so any opportunity to move beyond this instability is welcome.
The couple moves to Consilience and for a while everything is fine. Better than fine, really. But once those most fundamental physiological needs are met, others surface. The need to belong, to feel loved and desired. The need to feel good about oneself. And as the Idiot’s Guide to Buddhism tells us, desire is the root of all suffering. And so it begins.
Atwood wrote a story about human striving and control and our habitual willingness to sacrifice civil liberties for safety until we feel secure and then start to want those liberties back. Consilience is, of course, hiding secrets and those that discover those secrets will never be safe. Oh yeah, and also free will is kind of subjective.
I don’t like best of lists, because I am not so widely read as to presume that I know who the best of any particular genre or nation is, but if I can winnow down the category sufficiently I might be able to name a best of. Margaret Atwood is (imho) the best Female Canadian Author of Dystopic Speculative Fiction that I know. Take that, Emily St. John Mandel! (whom I also love) Anyway… I am so glad that Margaret Atwood is still writing. This is not my favorite book by her, but it does not disappoint.