The Heart Goes Last……by Margaret Atwood
According to Huff Art & Cult, Ms Atwood is one of the best contemporary writers in the genre of Sci-fi and Apocalypse*. My first experience of reading her book is she is a very good writer, humorous, sarcastic, with superb ability to picture the details of her narratives as concisely as possible (economical in a way). But this book is definitely not classic. It’s just an English version of 倪匡’s Sci-fi. Too entertaining not provoking enough.
But this book can still compare to one of the most classic in the same genre, 1984, in one way or another. 1984 also has its problem. Too provoking not entertaining enough. But how can these two compare with each other?
Try to think like this. 1984 is about a hero/protagonist who was born in the prison with reason he haven’t known why. And, he took his chance/hints offered to get out of his prison to find a better world. On the other hand, The Heart Goes Last is about a protagonist couple, Stan and Charmaine, who was born free, so free that even during the Greatest Depression of US (2008 Eastern Board) they owned a Honda Sedan for driving anyway and getting shelter in (i.e. they at least had freedom and tools to avoid danger if they keep themselves vigilant enough). They were then jobless, or close to (as Charmaine had a temporary job as a waitress at a local pub). They were poor (all they could then afford were donuts and insta coffe). They felt insecure (as police force was cut to a minimum and they could only flee from danger with their Honda). Suddenly, they were offered a choice: (1) to live with free-will, impoverished, insecure, all by themselves; or (2) live in a prison, being protected, adequately provided and disciplined (even to the choice of movie and music), and panoptically observed 24/7. And the story started with that they took the second choice, getting into the prison. It complemented well with 1984, giving you supplementary information why a prison like 1984 was formed at first.
The starting point of this book is really thought provoking. That explains why it kept me for more than 3 months (should have been 1 month if Jane Eyre didn’t stand in the way). According to the Author, Freedom (a right to make decision for myself) is always the antipathy to Security and Certainty. If you decide to choose by yourself, you have to feel insecure and uncertain in certain respects. If you decide to “enjoy" security and certainty, you have to feel being deprived of freedom somehow. You can’t have both. Such theme came up again at the last scene of the book. Would you rather be hypnotised/switched on to love one (assume the one deserves your love and you really “want" to love him/her), that makes you feel secure and certain because then it would not be up to you to decide whether you love him/her or not. Or, would you rather “choose"/"decide" to love him/her in the name of freewill, that makes you feel free, as you can always op-out but less secure.
The first time I knew this book was when I listened to Guardian Bookcast, in which she was interviewed to talk about the book. She stopped at the starting point of the book I mentioned above, saying she didn’t want to reveal much. But in fact, her book didn’t reveal much after the starting point. Just getting a lot of sex scenes, a lot of funny plots, a lot of 王晶 tricks. Why have his shadow and ghost been everywhere in whatever I read, listen and watch? Anyway. Good to read, especially I give this book you free. If you are interested at all.
* Dear mates, don’t try to analyse too much. In a nutshell, Sci-fi is a genre of stories which talk about future world. That’s why even the movie “HER" is in this genre while all the movie was talking about was the world today.