Science Fiction

The Handmaid’s Tale and Other Dark Dystopian Dreams

The Handmaid’s Tale and Other Dark Dystopian Dreams

If the news has been feeling like some dark dystopian TV series for the past year, consider reading some speculative fiction exploring themes of gender and power. (And when is the next installment of The Handmaid’s Tale returning to Hulu, anyway?)

The Power : A Novel  by Naomi Alderman (2017)

“All over the world, teenage girls develop the ability to send an electric charge from the tips of their fingers. It might be a little jolt, as thrilling as it is frightening. It might be powerful enough to leave lightning-bolt traceries on the skin of people the girls touch. It might be deadly. And, soon, the girls learn that they can awaken this new-or dormant?-ability in older women, too. Needless to say, there are those who are alarmed by this development. There are efforts to segregate and protect boys, laws to ensure that women who possess this ability are banned from positions of authority. Girls are accused of witchcraft. Women are murdered. But, ultimately, there's no stopping these women and girls once they have the power to kill with a touch. Framed as a historical novel written in the far future-long after rule by women has been established as normal and, indeed, natural-this is an inventive, thought-provoking work of science fiction that has already been shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction in Britain.” (Kirkus Reviews 2017 August)

Future Home of the Living God : A Novel by Louise Erdrich (2017)

“Louise Erdrich, the New York Times bestselling, National Book Award-winning author of LaRose and The Round House, paints a startling portrait of a young woman fighting for her life and her unborn child against oppressive forces that manifest in the wake of a cataclysmic event. The world as we know it is ending. Evolution has reversed itself, affecting every living creature on earth. Science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans. Thirty-two-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, adopted daughter of a pair of big-hearted, open-minded Minneapolis liberals, is as disturbed and uncertain as the rest of America around her. But for Cedar, this change is profound and deeply personal. She is four months pregnant.” (Amazon.com)

The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley (2017)

“Hurley's latest stand-alone space-opera novel depicts the Legion, a group of organic spaceships or "worlds" orbiting around a shared sun, with the various lords of the slowly dying worlds competing for ever-dwindling resources. All of the inhabitants of the various worlds are women, with pregnancy and childbirth being automatic processes seemingly tied to the needs of their particular worlds. The bulk of the story follows Zan, an amnesiac continually sent by the lord of Katazyrna to try and capture the mysterious Mokshi, the only world to ever move from its place in the Legion's orbit. Another thread follows Jayd, a woman with intimate ties to Zan and her lost past, as well as world-altering plans for the Legion's future. As Zan explores not only space but the vast interior of Katazyrna itself, Hurley takes the reader on an exciting and at times breathtaking journey through the world of her creation.” (Booklist Reviews 2017 February)

Red Clocks : A Novel by Lena Zumas (To be published-January 2018)

"In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom. Ro, a single high-school teacher, is trying to have a baby on her own, while also writing a biography of Eivør, a little-known 19th-century female polar explorer. Susan is a frustrated mother of two, trapped in a crumbling marriage. Mattie is the adopted daughter of doting parents and one of Ro's best students, who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. And Gin is the gifted, forest-dwelling herbalist, or "mender," who brings all their fates together when she's arrested and put on trial in a frenzied modern-day witch hunt." (Amazon.com)

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1986)

"In the world of the near future, who will control women's bodies? Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now.... Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force." (Publisher Annotation)