Today two years ago I took part in Women’s March in Brussels. Trump had just sworn in and many people around the world were outraged. The Women’s March in America, or marches rather, gathered record numbers of participants in 2017. This year the numbers had dramatically dropped.
Many people feared back in 2017 that “crazy” will slowly become the new normal and the protesting methods of bygone decades will wither away. Feminist marches, pins and hashtags will be replaced by something new, and reading Gloria Steinem will again be just stale. I do not wish to think this is already happening (it clearly is).
Whatever your views about marching, time is never wasted on reading. I had to change my mind about dystopias and literature that can be loosely considered sci-fi. Give me mental medieval crazy-women anytime, but I cannot deal with hobbits, fairies and sci-fi. Until I found out that dystopias can be rather an interesting genre. Herewith my five favourites:
Margaret Atwood: The Heart Goes Last
This was fun. During and economic and social collapse an American couple finds themselves living in a car, until they take part in an alluring, but insanely strange social experiment of agreeing to spend half of their time locked up in a prison, taking turns with another couple. Sounds meh, but because Atwood has an imagination second to none, the story and many details are just astonishing (because they almost could be true, and many of them are already happening, such as men using specifically manufactured dolls as sexual “partners”).
Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale
A classic. I’m sure most of you have either seen the series of read the book, so I will not need to introduce it, except that it is really very good and you should read it.
Charlotte Wood: The Natural Way of Things
This is a story set in Australia, where a bunch of young women find themselves on a desert facility and start figuring out how they ended up there. Turns out, they have all had some kind of scandalous sexual relations with high-profile men, and they have been whisked to the desert slave-camp as a punishment. This is the first book I’ve read by Wood and wow, did it stick for a while! I massively enjoyed her naturalist descriptions. Excellent modern feminist horror.
Naomi Alderman: The Power
What if girls held all the power in their hands and could cause pain and death by clicking their fingers? What would happen if women were the aggressors? Would women kill on a rampage just because they can? Are women better than men?
That’s Alderman’s dystopia in a nutshell. The novel is excellent and much hyped (also branded “The Handmaid’s Tale for the millennials), but merits much of it.
Joyce Carol Oates: Hazards of Time Travel
This is the latest novel by Oates and I just finished it. Set in the North American States NAS is 2025 a high-school student is seized by the state when she’s rehearsing her valedictorian speech. As a punishment of alleged provocation (she was planning to ask some questions in her speech, such as “what came before the Great Terrorist Attacks of 9/11?”) she is teleported to Wisconsin, travelling back 80 years in time. She is given a new identity and put into a university to suffer her 4-year sentence. She finds another Exile on campus and they fall in love.
Time Travel is both scifi and a love story, but mainly a poignant critique of the current state of affairs in the US (Joyce Carol Oates is a vocal Trump-critic). An excellent read.