Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood has long been the doyenne of post-apocalyptic fiction. But as society becomes ever more mired in global concerns such as the march of AI, data theft and hyper-capitalism, Atwood’s ideas, which were once viewed as fanciful dystopian notions of the future, now appear as uncomfortable harbingers of a more-than-plausible reality.
In the first 10 pages of The Heart Goes Last, married couple Stan and Charmaine are living in their car in what has become a lost rustbelt America. A whole generation is trying to stay afloat in the midst of economic and social collapse. So when they see an advertisement for The Positron Project in the town of Consilience — a social experiment offering stable jobs and a home of their own — they sign up immediately. All they have to do in return for this suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month, swapping their home for a prison cell. What could possibly go wrong?
Atwood artfully navigates the reader through an exhilarating journey into a world where the values of autonomy and self-identity have been blithely swapped for home comforts. Atwood asks: “Sustenance, but at what cost?” Soon the pressures of conformity, mistrust and guilt take over and Positron looks less like a dream and more like a chilling prophecy.