This is a brilliant work, combining gripping human survival drama with a continuation of the arch and pointed social satire of the first two novels. Atwood has a naughty and delicious sense of language. It's always an enlightening and enjoyable experience to be among her words. Her prose scintillates with humor, especially when she describes the cultural communications between the survivors of the old world and the inheritors of the new one.
The only problem I have with this novel is that we are dealing with genocide, after all, and there's only so far you can go with whimsy and romance and humor and satire in the shadow of genocide. I think the end would have read better if the pack of affectless eco-geeks left alive after the disaster showed at least a tiny bit of empathy for the billions who were eliminated in the so-called Waterless Flood. Like maybe a moment of silence for the victims, or something. That's the only place where the novel falls flat for me.
Having never read this book before, I had an idea that it was just some Errol Flynn movie with capes and swords, but in print. I couldn't have been more wrong. Along with period romance and period adventure and period action, there are deep lessons in revenge, forgiveness, love, mercy, politics, religion, class warfare, mortality, destiny, foreign policy, criminal justice, and even bubble economics. I cried at several points and especially at the heart-throbbing and poetic end. The narration is superb and appropriately dignified for the flowery and formal language of the times.
This is the first novel in a series. After I finished this one, I ate, er, read the rest of them like potato chips in a bag. Now the bag is empty and I'm still hungry. How fast can she write these things? Is there any way we could help her write them faster? I can see our plucky heroine and her dashing Irish suitor taking us up all the way to WWII and its aftermath. Maybe their children could spy for the Queen in the swinging sixties. Please let it be so!
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