Author: Margaret Atwood
Publisher: Nan A Talese
Rating: 4 stars
Received from Publisher
Blurb: Margaret Atwood puts the human heart to the ultimate test in an utterly brilliant new novel that is as visionary as The Handmaid’s Tale and as richly imagined as The Blind Assassin.
Stan and Charmaine are a married couple trying to stay afloat in the midst of an economic and social collapse. Job loss has forced them to live in their car, leaving them vulnerable to roving gangs. They desperately need to turn their situation around—and fast. The Positron Project in the town of Consilience seems to be the answer to their prayers. No one is unemployed and everyone gets a comfortable, clean house to live in . . . for six months out of the year. On alternating months, residents of Consilience must leave their homes and function as inmates in the Positron prison system. Once their month of service in the prison is completed, they can return to their “civilian” homes.
At first, this doesn’t seem like too much of a sacrifice to make in order to have a roof over one’s head and food to eat. But when Charmaine becomes romantically involved with the man who lives in their house during the months when she and Stan are in the prison, a series of troubling events unfolds, putting Stan’s life in danger. With each passing day, Positron looks less like a prayer answered and more like a chilling prophecy fulfilled.
Review: Have you ever walked into a crowded restaurant and spotted an old friend across the room? A friend you haven’t seen in years? A friend you didn’t know you were missing so badly until you spot her again? And there she is…smiling…waiting patiently for you to hug her tightly and welcome her back into your life. Hello, old friend.
For years I was a devoted reader of Margaret Atwood. Then other things, other pursuits…life…separated us, and I had no idea how much I had missed her until I spotted this new book, The Heart Goes Last, being offered for review. There was a bit of squealing as I grabbed the opportunity to renew our acquaintance. I’m still a little giddy. She never disappoints.
So, Ms. Atwood and I found a cozy corner to settle into while she told me the latest things on her mind.
The mind of Margaret Atwood is always an interesting place to visit. In her latest dystopian tale, she takes Stan and Charmaine into a world of economic chaos. A world where the poor and dispossessed, like Stan and Charmaine, can quickly become the prey for roving gangs. It is never made quite clear how the economic collapse of the eastern part of the United States happened, while the rest of the country was still doing fairly well, but I just rolled with it and enjoyed the ride. The Positron Project seemed like a perfect solution at first. Plenty to eat, a home and security from the outside world. The first clue, for me, was that once you signed in, you couldn’t get out. Even though they were allowed a more or less normal life every other month, with a huge wall surrounding both the prison and the town of Consilience, it was still a prison with no escape. The big question is why? And the answers are scary.
There are always moral questions in an Atwood book. I expected that. What I didn’t expect was when some of the more bizarre parts of the story became comedic. I laughed out loud more than once at some of the melodramatic machinations. And then I would berate myself for laughing, telling myself to be quiet, this is a serious book! But come on! There are robots being made in the prison. They call them Possibilibots, which is just a fancy name for sex dolls that are pretty darn life like! They’re hilarious! But there is a serious moral dilemma, too. If you know something is wrong, just little things that seem off, but you know that asking questions will get you in trouble, how far will you go to stay secure? That’s the question for Stan and Charmaine. Maybe it’s the question for all of us. Are we prisoners of our own comforts? Do we turn a blind eye in order to secure our safety and pleasures? How far will Stan and Charmaine go before they break? How far would any of us go?
This book was originally released as a serial. I’m glad I have the complete form, having to wait for installments might have driven me a little mad. If you’re a fan of topsy turvy world building where everything is familiar but twisted, you will enjoy this book. If you love to read a superbly written story by a brilliant author, you will love this book. If you don’t like to read something that will make you think hard about choices, about the dilemmas of security at a price, you might not like it quite as much as I did. If you’re already an Atwood fan, you won’t be disappointed. You already know how she can twist you in knots. If you’re new to Atwood? Get ready for the ride, and…..