Hi, Margaret Atwood fangirl over here. I was SO excited that she was coming out with a new book, because I find her cultural criticism to be spot-on. I didn’t read ahead about The Heart Goes Last, but I was *sure* that her book would have some sort of cultural criticism, dystopian element, and wry humor. Of course, I was not disappointed.
In The Heart Goes Last, the world is an economic wasteland. Stan and Charmaine are living in their car while desperately trying to make ends meet. Their life is a constant cat-and-mouse game of trying to outsmart grifters and thieves. When they see a promotion for a better world at the settlement of Consilience, they decide to apply. And then, Consilience promises a better life: hot water and towels, enough food to eat, and jobs for both Stan and Charmaine. There is one price to pay: for each month of living and working in Consilience, they must spend a month in Positron, Consilience’s prison. They live in prison, while their “alternate” family lives in Consilience, and then vice versa at the end of the month. Unbeknownst to each other, Stan and Charmaine develop sexual obsessions with their alternates, and that’s when everything hits the fan.
Atwood is at her wicked finest, what with consumerist satire and Elvis sex-robots. I’m not even kidding. It’s a grand time, and an interesting mesh of satire, mystery, and thriller. I hope that she develops this world more with other books. I’d be interested to see how Positron started or how other locations took the idea to their logical extremes. Either way, it’s an interesting idea that stands well by itself or could be developed even further in other books.