The Heart Goes Last: Stan and Charmaine are a married couple trying to stay afloat in the midst of an economic. Job loss has forced them to live in their car, leaving them vulnerable to roving gangs. They desperately need to turn their situation around—and fast. The Positron Project in the town of Consilience seems to be the answer to their prayers. No one is the unemployed and everyone gets a comfortable, clean house to live in . . . for six months out of the year. On alternating months, residents of Consilience must leave their homes. And function as inmates in the Positron prison system. Once their month of service in the prison finished. They can return to their “civilian” homes.
At first, this doesn’t seem like too much of a sacrifice to make to have a roof over one’s head and food to eat. When she and Stan are in the prison, a series of troubling events unfolds, putting Stan’s life in danger. Positron looks less like a prayer answered and more like a chilling prophecy fulfilled.
The Heart Goes Last is an ebook serial
The Heart Goes Last, written as an ebook serial, is a jarring, rewardingly strange piece of work. At first a classic Atwood dystopia, rationally imagined and developed. It relaxes suddenly into a kind of surrealist adventure. The satirical impulse foregrounds itself. Narrative drive ramps up. But in the service of something less like a novel than a political cartoon. In which raw inventiveness undercuts the idea of the story. Revealing it to have been a fairly flimsy disguise all along. Atwood allows her sense of the absurd its full elbow room.
Her cheerfully caustic contempt. Bestowed even-handedly on contemporary economics, retro culture, and the social and neurological determination of identity – goes unrestrained. The result, reminiscent of Russian author Victor Pelevin’s superficially chaotic. But linguistically controlled satires, populated by gay Elvis impersonators. A Marilyn Monroe lookalike in love with a soft toy and a talking head in a box. It features mass production, in the Positron prison factories, of animatronic sex dolls.
If Atwood doesn’t quite meet Pelevin’s levels of ebullient despair, she matches him for savagery. During production the as – yet headless bodies of the prostitots, writhing and grinding through a test sequence, the smell of plastic, a problem cured later in the process by the addition of an artificial pheromone. At that stage the customer is offered an extra choice of scent: orange blossom, rose, ylang-ylang, chocolate pudding or Old Spice.
All good clean fun until you get to the “kiddy but” model, packaged in “white nighties and flannelette sheets”, with blue knitted teddy bear “for extra-realistic effect”. Even Stan’s co-workers – used to rationalising their own behaviour in accord with their needs – find this a bit close to the bone. But they don’t complain, and they certainly don’t refuse to manufacture the goods. Economic determinism drives change, and change must be good. Even when it leads to neurologically imprinted sex slaves or rejuvenation biology based on babies’ blood.
The book has gay Elvis impersonators. A Marilyn Monroe lookalike in love with a soft toy and a talking head in a box Jubilant comedy of errors, bizarre bedroom farce, SF prison-break thriller, psychedelic 60s crime caper: The Heart Goes Last scampers in and out of all these genres, pausing only to quote Milton on the loss of Eden or Shakespeare on weddings.
Meanwhile, it performs a hard-eyed autopsy on themes of impersonation and self-impersonation, revealing so many layers of contemporary deception and self-deception. That we don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
He has been, he thinks, “the puppet of his own constricted desires”. But his sense that he could somehow have avoided all that is rhetoric. All dependable descriptions of the world have stolen from him by the fantasies of corporate language, aspiration, economics, what passes for politics: “All he sees is fog.” As distraught, charmless and confused as all the other inhabitants of Positron/Consilience. He and Charmaine left to concentrate “on the chain of causes and effects and lies and impostures”. That have connected the personal to the political, set the parameters of their dystopia.
Thrilling, sometimes comic, often absurd and entirely engaging, spinning sins into the territory of Elvis-themed escorts, stuffed-animal carnality. What keeps The Heart Goes Last fresh. As with the rest of Atwood’s recent work, is that while it revisits earlier themes of her oeuvre, it never replicates. Rather, it reads like an exploration continued, with new surprises, both narratively and thematically. Margaret Atwood has become something nearly as fantastical as one of her storytelling subjects. A living legend who continues to remain fresh and innovative on the page. – Mat Johnson, New York Times Book Review.
The Heart Goes Last affords an arresting perspective on the confluence of information, freedom in the modern age. -The New Yorker.
This is quintessential Atwood territory. A bleak dystopian landscape littered with shady types who engage in twisted sexual manipulation and scientific engineering reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake. The writing here is so persuasive, so crisp, that it seeps under your skin. This fast-paced novel is hard to put down when it comes screaming to its clever and terrifying conclusion. —Boston Globe
” A gripping, psychologically acute portrayal of our own future gone totally wrong. And the eternal constant of flawed humanity. ” — Huffington Post.
MARGARET ATWOOD published in thirty-five countries. She is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. Besides her novels include Cat’s Eye, short-listed for the 1989 Booker Prize. Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy. The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize. Oryx and Crake, short-listed for the 2003 Man Booker Prize. The Year of the Flood. and her most recent, MaddAddam. She is the recipient of the Los Angeles Times Innovator’s Award. And she lives in Toronto with the writer Graeme Gibson.
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