HADRON AGE SF (65)
March 29, 2023
One in a series of posts about the 75 best sf adventures published during the genre’s Hadron Age era (from 2004–2023, according to HILOBROW’s periodization schema). For Josh Glenn’s Hadron Age Sci-Fi 75 list (a work in progress), click here.
Margaret Atwood‘s The Testaments (2019).
The fast-moving, melodramatic sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) is set fifteen years later. One of the narrators we’ve encountered before: Aunt Lydia, a strict and vengeful instructor who punishes the Republic of Gilead’s fertile Handmaids severely for their insubordination. Here we learn her history, how she became an “Aunt” — and we discover that there was more to Lydia’s story than we could ever have suspected. We also hear “testimony” from Agnes, a privileged young woman living in Gilead (who discovers that she is the daughter of a Handmaid), and Daisy, a young woman living in Canada (who was smuggled out of Gilead as a baby). Offred, the victimized narrator of The Handmaid’s Tale, makes only a brief appearance here; she has been declared a terrorist and enemy of the state. Gilead agents sneak into Canada; agents of the Mayday resistance movement sneak into Gilead. The novel’s plot has been described as Dickensian — because we find orphans attempting to learn the secret of their origins, and characters taking on one another’s identities, and much hinges on improbable coincidences. (As a Dickens enthusiast, I love this stuff.) Will the resistance succeed in bringing down Gilead and restoring the United States? One hopes so….
Fun facts: The Testaments was a joint winner of the 2019 Booker Prize. In an interview, Atwood compared the rise of Gilead to the climate crisis: “People have known about and talked about a coming climate crisis for a really long time. It’s just that the general population either wasn’t aware, wasn’t interested, wasn’t listening, or did that thing that we all do, which is, ‘Well, it won’t happen tomorrow.’ We all do that.”
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