Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

Yeah, reading The Year of the Flood kicked off something of an Atwood run for me.  I actually found The Handmaid’s Tale in the buy 2 get 1 free bin at my local Barnes and Noble, so I grabbed it.  I’m always good for a classic by an author I like.

The Handmaid’s Tale showcases two of my favorite superpowers that Margaret Atwood has: her ability to extrapolate societies by believably turning up the gain on today’s society and the ability to create people in those societies who think, react, and generally behave like real people.  The first is a necessity in writing speculative fiction worth reading and the second makes reading the speculation a joy not a chore.

If one wants to pick nits in the plot mechanics, one can, on sober reflection, succeed at that game.  But the characters are so wholeheartedly invested in the world that it seems in poor taste to do so.  Just as good actors can create a suspension of disbelief, so can Atwood’s characters.

The characters do play symbolic roles, and the aspects of society are exaggerated to make a point.  But the points are all well worth consideration, and the symbols all speak with the voices of our friends.  The total effect is powerful and thought-provoking in a way that few works are.

Strongly recommended.

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