I can’t help but express my disappointment for Margaret Atwood’s latest dystopian novel, The Heart Goes Last. I was so excited when NetGalley sent me an advance Kindle copy as I was a huge fan of the MaddAddam Trilogy. But I’m sad to report that Atwood, the sly mistress of speculative fiction, finally seems to be running on fumes.
The Heart Goes Last begins promisingly enough. In the (not so distant?) future, a young couple, Charmaine and Stan, is living out of their car while the world around them has gone to hell after a financial collapse decimates most of the East Coast of the US turning it into one giant version of Camden, NJ. But then the once hopeless couple sees a way out when they hear about The Positron Project in the planned community of Consilience. Here, well-mannered prisoners mix with the desperate destitute (but otherwise law-abiding) masses who can’t find work. The inhabitants take turns living in a planned community and a low-security prison, swapping time, houses and lives as they carry out tasks for the corporation that runs Consilience.
Atwood creates a golden opportunity to explore the slippery slope of our current privatization of prisons, but sadly the novel glosses over that as things devolve into the absurd and Charmaine and Stan’s tale becomes a silly sex farce (not too far removed from Woody Allen’s cringe worthy Sleeper) jam-packed with CEO’s gone mad, corporate conspiracies, wife swapping, sex bots (who in grand Atwood wordplay are branded Possibilibots), and Neuropimps who erase all of your past hang-ups so they can imprint your sex drive onto anyone (who pays for it) or anything (there is a darkly humorous side bit where one minor character imprints onto a teddy bear). Continue reading