Review by WWEnder:
This has been on my ‘to-read’ list for what seems like years. The novel’s reputation does precede it somewhat as I’m aware of it’s consideration of being a feminist classic.
My overwhelming impression after reading the novel is that it’s a good novel in terms of plot and story – I found it was one of the novels I couldn’t put down once I started reading it. That said, I didn’t find it a ‘great novel’. The plot is fairly linear and the characterisation limited although that’s necessary for the book – it’s not a story that will stay with me forever.
That said it is a very powerful book and I think this is why it is a necessary read for pretty much everyone! Atwood wrote this in the mid-80’s against a landscape of increased Christian Right influences in US culture. What is truly frightening is that whilst the current US does not resemble Atwood’s Gilead we do see Religious groups informing policy in much of the West and certainly in the US. Likewise, the reproductive rights of women is still a ‘debate’ in some areas of the West. We can see shades of Atwood’s Gilead today in the West. We can see it’s stark realisation in many other parts of the world.
Many areas of the world oppress women to this day. Is Gilead any different from Taliban controlled Afghanistan and Pakistan. Do ISIS resemble Gilead? In much of the Islamic world from Saudi Arabia to Iran (whether they are a ‘friend’ of the West or not) women have no political rights, must cover their faces, are owned by fathers and men and their sexual identity repressed. Is female genital mutilation or the kidnap of girls in Nigeria that different from Gilead?
It’s not confined to the Islamic world either. Consider the sex trafficking of girls and women from Eastern Europe to the West, the sexual exploitation of girls and women in South East Asia, restriction to birth control in Ireland. In the West we quite often look at feminism through the lens of work and bemoan that women struggle to break the glass ceiling to positions of power. This is a classist position and considers the rights of well educated and privileged women above the millions of working class women. Gender politics often look at the experience of women from a middle class perspective. This ignores that working class women are oppressed significantly across the world – yes they can work (in low paid part time jobs), but they are still doing the cleaning, looking after the kids and getting tea on the table.
Gilead is a dystopian future but I do not think in the 20 years or so since this novel has been written that the lives of women across the world have improved very much, indeed it could be argued that things are worse.
I found the naming of the Handmaids particularly troubling (Offred meaning ‘of Fred’s’). This did make me consider though we still have similar conventions (my wife took my surname when we were married). I guess it is the use of the first name that personalises this ownership so much. Furthermore, that we never knew Offred’s real name. I so wanted to discover it. I wanted her to have a name and an identity.
The dehumanisation and categorisation of women was powerful. One can see a limited male perspective of women – a Martha for the cleaning, a Handmaid for the breeding and a Jezebel for the entertainment. How often do men roll these characterisations into one and call it Wife?
It’s a novel of immense power and the use of power. Offred describes power relationships in the book but realistically she does not have any. It’s an indictment of societies mores and rules which everyone has to follow (except those in power). That the Commanders who wrote the rulebook are the ones that ignore it is a particularly strong message.
Well worth reading.
One of the features that I’ve been missing on WWEnd’s blog has been the featured reviews. The amazing growth of the site with the RYO challenges and all the new awards and features has made it impossible for the administrative team to keep up with the amount of reviews that the site is now generating. I have volunteered to be a “review editor” of sorts.
What I want to do is put some of Worlds Without End’s exclusive reviews center stage on the blog. Many of you have your own review blogs and generate your own readers through various means. I want to feature those of us who are only posting our reviews here on WWEnd. (I’m not just doing this to get an audience. I have very mixed feelings about adding mine at all.) What I hope this does is bring some readership and conversation to these reviews that can be quickly pushed off the rolling list on the home page as more reviews are added.
As I said, I am only me, so if you read a good review that you’d like to see on the blog, send me a message through the message system on the forum page. Also, if you want to self-promote your own WWEnd-only review, drop me a note as well. I have created a forum page as well for more conversations and general questions. This is the link. I will put up the first review tomorrow.
I really want to love Star Wars again and that looks pretty damn cool. Help me, J.J. Abrams, you’re my only hope.
The shortlist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award for best science fiction novel for 2015 have been announced. They are:
- The Girl With All The Gifts, M.R. Carey (Orbit)
- The Book Of Strange New Things, Michel Faber (Canongate)
- Europe In Autumn, Dave Hutchinson (Solaris)
- Memory Of Water, Emmi Itäranta (HarperVoyager)
- The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August, Claire North (Orbit)
- Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel (Picador)
The winner will be announced on Wednesday 6th May at an exclusive award ceremony held at Foyles Bookshop, London, and taking place as part of the activities leading up to the SCI-FI-LONDON Film Festival. The winner will be presented with a check for £2015.00 and the award itself, a commemorative engraved bookend. See the official press release for more details.
So what do you think of this list? Any surprises for you? Which is your pick to win?
The 2014 BSFA Award winners were announced at the 66th Eastercon Dysprosium at the Park Inn Hotel, Heathrow on Sunday 5th April 2015.
In the Best Novel category the winner is Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword, the sequel to last year’s co-winner Ancillary Justice. To see the full results in all categories check out the official announcement on the BSFA website.
Our congrats to Ms. Leckie for the win.
What do you think of this result? Ancillary Sword is making a splash, though not yet as big as Justice. It may be time for a new mantlepiece in the Leckie household to hold all these new awards.
The 2015 Hugo Award nominees have been announced. The noms in the Novel category are:
- The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Tor)
- The Dark Between the Stars, Kevin J. Anderson (Tor)
- Skin Game, Jim Butcher (Roc)
- Lines of Departure, Marko Kloos (47North)
- Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
See the full list of noms in all categories on the official Hugo Award site.
Our congrats to all the nominees. I guess Ann Leckie must be the front runner based on past performance, she won the Hugo last year, as well as damn near everything else, for Ancillary Justice, but I’ll bet Jim Butcher has a ton of fans chomping at the bit too. What do you think of this crop of books? Any favorites in the list?
Can’t wait for the new season to start!
Wray Nerely (Alan Tudyk) was a co-star on Spectrum, a sci-fi series which was canceled -Too Soon- yet became a cult classic. Wray’s good friend, Jack Moore (Nathan Fillion) starred in the series and has gone on to become a major movie star. While Jack enjoys the life of an A-lister, Wray tours the sci-fi circuit as a guest of conventions, comic book stores, and lots of pop culture events. The show will feature all the weird and crazy things that happen to Wray along the way to these events.
This Indiegogo campaign started yesterday and is, of course, already funded because… Browncoats. BUT the more money they raise the more episodes they’ll be making. This looks a hoot and I’m all for getting more of these guys working together in whatever format comes along. The chemistry is obviously still there and it should be a fun ride chock full of clever Firefly references and if you’ve ever been to a SF convention you know how ripe that environment is for comedy and strangeness.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 10, 2015
THE FUTURE OF SCIENCE FICTION IS IN YOUR HANDS!
Writing genre fiction can be a lonely business for teens. The Alpha SF/F/H Workshop brings together young writers, aged 14 to 19, for ten days of creation and peer review critiques. At the end of the workshop, students leave with new skills and a vibrant network of support.
Alphans have published in dozens of markets, including Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, Analog and Strange Horizons. Many of them have placed and won in contests such as The Dell Magazine Award, Writers of the Future, and the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.
Tamora Pierce, author of young adult series such as Protector of the Small and The Provost’s Dog, has instructed at the workshop every year since its inception. This year, instructors include Ellen Kushner, author of the beloved Riverside books recently adapted into an award winning Audible series, Delia Sherman of Freedom Maze fame, and two-time Andre Norton Award-nominated Alaya Dawn Johnson.
Alpha works hard to keep costs low–every staff member is a volunteer, and the tuition is kept at the lowest possible level–but prospective students often require financial aid. This year–as they have for the past several–alumni have contributed writing and art to an illustrated flash fiction anthology and offered it as a donor reward in the entirely alumni-organized scholarship fund drive.
The Alpha alumni fundraiser will run March 17-26. Would you consider giving us a signal boost? Donations really do change the course of our young writers’ lives.
To learn more about the Alpha SF/F/H Young Writers’ Workshop, please visit the Alpha website, and check out our latest video, featuring interviews with Bruce Coville and Tamora Pierce.
For more information please contact:
Publicity Coordinator Lara Elena Donnelly
There you have it folks. Your donation will help these youngsters become the kind of writers you want to read. A worthwhile cause that you can support and even benefit from down the line.
As a further incentive all donors receive the Alphanthology, a PDF anthology of flash fiction written, illustrated, and edited by Alpha alumni. Surely that’s worth a sawbuck? Check out the Alpha site for more details and to make your donation today!