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.
©2015 O.W. Toad Ltd (P)2015 Penguin Random House LLC
"The outstanding novelist of our age." (The Sunday Times)
"Atwood makes it look so easy, doing what she does best: tenderly dissecting the human heart . A marvellous writer." (The Daily Mail)
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"What is this all about??"
I have read a few of Margaret Attwood's books in the past and never noticed a chaotic story line in any of them... But this is hard to listen to, to follow or to gauge where the story is taking you. You need to go with the flow to get through this!
Characters do not present with realistic with blurred emotions and contradictions in their own values and localities. Sorry but it's a tough one!!
"Good but Atwood has done better"
I enjoyed this dystopian novel from Atwood. It was not as engaging as The Handmaid's Tale (in my opinion), but I enjoyed it and I cared about what happened to the characters.
I'd possibly go for 3.75 stars over four stars but I don't have that option!
Charmaine's piece is read as somewhat "airhead" or "dumb blonde". I think that was at least partly deliberate but it was only slightly annoying at times.
"Atwood by numbers"
I'm normally a big fan of Margaret Atwood but this latest really didn't grab me at all. the characters were unlikeable, which in itself isn't a problem, but they were also quite dim and boring. other than a bit of sexual intrigue they are concerned with practically nothing and don't really give us much of an insight into the distopian near future USA that Atwood tries to invoke. this left me feeling that the conceptual world was quite half baked and didnt really bring any new themes or ideas to the table. I stead we are presented fairly well regarded tropes- organ harvesting, sexbots, faux 1950s suburbiana etc.
the narrators do ab ok job but overplay the characters. it's as though they want to make sure you are 100% clear on the emotional state of the characters at all times.
overall, I had to persist to get to the end, and wasn't particularly rewarded upon getting there.
"A saccharin, bitter, sexual satire"
Gay Elvis impersonators, a Marilyn Monroe lookalike in heat with a soft blue teddy bear and a talking head in a box
This book started as a four part publication of ebook segments, similar to the way The Green Mile was published, but it lacks the cohesion of The Green Mile or the soul.
Stan and Charmaine the main characters have fallen in hard times and are living in their car, in constant fear of roaming gangs, rape and murders, they take solace in an offer by a Positron project, that gives them the use of a house one month but the next they become prisoners while the prisoners become the inhabitants of the house, no outside communication is allowed, no outside contact, you come in you stay and you question nothing. You would think that this would be enough for A dystopia, but no, sexual politics, sexual desires, infidelity, bestiality, sexual robots of all kinds, and love potion operations that imprint a person to the first thing they see with two eye, and tons of other shenanigans take over the story and turn it into a not very humorous satire, that feels more like sitcom than a novel. To make matters worse none of the characters are likable, so I could not feel for them.
This is a Canadian author writing a satire of americana pastiches that are superfluous cliches, that do not add but diminish the story with buffoonery, we have a town in the near future that only play music and movies from the fifties, that is american fifties, Elvis Presley impersonators, Marilyn Monroe impersonators as a kind of entertainers come escorts, or hospital fantasies for the elderly, also robot versions that can be rented to have sex. I know it is supposed to be funny, but I just found it irritating.
The plot is easy to follow but you never know what are the motivations, for those manipulating until the end, but by then it is just feels banal.
The prose is agile and expert like I would expect from Margaret Atwood but the humor never really took me over, and I could not see the point of this saccharin bitter story.
The narration was excellent and using two actors when you have two distinct characters telling the story works very well.
"Really rather disappointing"
I am a huge fan of Margaret Atwood's however this left me cold. I have little idea what she was trying to achieve with this story; it's so meandering and trite I found it very difficult to tough it out. There were so many elements to it whatever message Atwood was trying to convey was lost in the noise.
The narration of this story however is excellent, it was what kept me going. If I had read this in print I would not have finished.
"I loved it!"
Interesting and quirky story with great narration! Margaret Atwood's view of modern society was disturbing and dark yet very funny at times.
"Under par Attwood"
Not sure, it starts so badly.
Not their fault.
Am an ardent fan of Margaret Atwood and her recent Oryx & Crake trilogy - so this latest book came as rather a disappointment.
"The strangest Atwood tale I've encountered"
I love Margaret Atwood and was pleased to find a novel I hadn't encountered before. While I did find the story compelling and listenable, I found the female protagonist irritating. I loved the plot conceit, but I found a lot of events that advanced the plot too convenient. The denouement seemed bizarre and unsatisfying too. I suppose this is a satirical novel but I wasn't sure what the message was by the end.
"If Barbie & Ken could speak..."
...they'd sound like the narrators of this book. Gets irritating very quickly. Set in a dystopian America (which Atwood conjured up so well in A Handmaid's Tale) the story disintegrates into farce, with shallow, unlikeable central characters. I hung grimly on until the end, but this isn't Atwood at her best.
"Are you up for a Dystopian romp?"
Is there such a thing as a dystopian romp? Is there is, this is it. The Handmaid's Tale was serious, cohesive and chilling; The Heart Goes Last has none of those qualities. It touches potentially on serious issues - social deprivation in a wealthy city which leaves Stan and Charmaine living in their car; the wholesale harvesting of body parts for massive profits - but these are not pursued or developed in any seriously engaging way. Stan and Charmaine sign up for a social experiment which gives them luxury living - on condition they spend alternate months in Positron, a prison where they must live separately. Charmaine becomes responsible for administering 'Procedures' during which she smiles and soothes her victims into the next life - or so she believes.
The Heart Goes Last is crammed with interesting possibilities, but the whole is a rag bag of ideas thrown out at breakneck speed so that farce or just plain silliness is uppermost. The emphasis on sex is tediously unrelenting - sex robots, called 'slut machines' by the guffawing guys making them, have a flushing system and a range of expressions including L&S for Lustful and Shameless. Is this funny or is there something rather shoddy about all this? The experiment includes 'neural re-wiring' which results in the subjects falling in love with the first thing with a heartbeat they see as they come round from the operation; characters pretend to be someone they are not, or 'die' only to come alive again - surely Shakespeare has already done this better?
The dual narration is entirely apt - it's American with interrogative sing-song intonation which serves to underline the sit-com shallowness of the characters. If you want to be entertained with lots of jokey sex in a futuristic setting where anything goes, then you'll enjoy it. But if you're hoping for a novel worthy of the author of The Handmaid's Tale, you'll be disappointed.
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