A month of Margaret Atwood

I finished two Margaret Atwood books in May- the first being Oryx & Crake, and the second being the more famous Handmaid’s Tale.

I’ll start by saying that I enjoyed the former more than the latter- I’m a sucker for plausible sci-fi.  Oryx and Crake is a story about the future of genetic alteration, which I feel is an inevitable outcome of the current pursuit of the human genome.  Of course, what makes it an interesting topic is the horrible, dystopian society that comes from genetic manipulation gone too far.  Too far is an interesting concept, in that it is only apparent after the event, which makes me wonder what will be the real ‘too far’.  Will it be designer humans, who’s lack of physical flaw makes them shallow and uninteresting?  Or, will it be a more sinister development, like a disease that infects people with certain genetic traits?

In any case, genetic tampering is destined to have an amibiguous impact on our species, sort of like atomic fission.  The technology has the potential to ensure our survival for centuries, but in practicality brings us even closer to annihilation.

The other book, The Handmaid’s Tale, is less science-fictiony.  It’s the story of a society that has slipped into a strict male hegemony, where fertile women are forced to copulate, so that they might reverse the negative birthrate that is crippling society.

What struck me about the style of both books is that they stay focused on the human emotions, and how they are affected by the events of the story.  Stories that just focus on some grim, dystopian future can get pretty boring without emotional depth.  I think that’s what I used to like about The Simpsons- the first couple of seasons had plausible events, real emotional texture, and rough production values.  Now, the picture is sharp, and every episode involves a robot or a trip to the mountains/ocean/moon.

What happened?

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