#EmptyShelf17 #12-13 Dystopian Futures with The Handmaid’s Tale and Brave New World

Brave New WorldBrave New World by Aldous Huxley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don’t know quite what I expected from this book – but have quoted Huxley (not from this book) in that persuasion/propaganda can ‘only canalise a pre-existing stream’. I can see why the book has new resonance in a world in which we chase experience, happiness, and consumerism … and the final question of whether we’re entitled to be unhappy – aka, have ‘free will’.

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The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well I got drawn into that … intriguing bit of dystopian futurism (not the first I’ve read this year in which women/babies = scarce resource). In some ways frustrating there’s no clear cut end, but as a historian a recognisable format!

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[NETFLIX] Thoughts on Black Mirror: Nosedive

I have loved the previous series of Black Mirror – particularly as it offers great content for discussions in teaching sessions – especially at MediaLit, with the insights of those being trained within a theological context, as we questioned the impact that the digital age is having on humanity. I’ve signed up for the free month on Netflix (we’ll see if I bother to extend it), and that first episode Nosedive was worth waiting for:

I’m a passionate advocate for the positive use of technology, and for our own consideration of use of technology – but not necessarily just our personal consideration – the input from government, society, companies making it, etc. and this was a fascinating insight into which the scoring system (which I guess I’m used to from eBay, Amazon and Uber on a smaller scale) could affect people’s lives in a distinctly problematic way…. as Charlie Brooker wants us to think about:

Brooker has said that the show’s name refers to “the cold, shiny screens” of the devices we’re so attached to, but it also seems to offer a message that technology reflects the darkest elements of humanity right back at us. Some episodes are set in vividly imaginative future worlds; the most disturbing ones, though, are set in the present, and shine an uncomfortable spotlight on the ways in which we’re already living. (The Atlantic)

Whilst watching this particular episode, however, as always, I’m thinking of the parallels with humanity past and present, and to be honest, this episode largely reminded me of many American films, in which young women try to be part of the ‘in-crowd’ at school, and the extreme amount of work that takes … and the freedom to be found from not ‘playing that game’ – which this episode highlights well. I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes:

“If we don’t like what social media is presenting us [with], we should look at society instead, not just the tool they communicate with.” Caroline Criado-Perez, 2013

Or as The Verge put it in a review worth reading: “If Black Mirror could be summed up in one sentence, it’d probably be “Technology is exciting, but people are awful, and they keep finding the worst ways to apply it.”

Now, next episode?!


#EmptyShelf2016 #60-62: The Gender Game @AShadeofVampire; The Last Girl @AuthorJoeHart

Although I already have PLENTY of books waiting to be read on my Kindle (and my physical bookshelves), I wasn’t feeling too well over Christmas, and an email came from Amazon offering The Gender Game and The Last Girl for 99p each – so I downloaded them … sold as ‘if you liked the Hunger Games, you’ll probably like these’, which is probably a fair analysis!

Bella Forrest (who appears to be better known for Vampire novels – something I’m not a particular fan of), has created a post-apocalyptic dystopian world in which Patrus is ruled by men – and women have little/no rights or say, and Matrus is ruled by women – in which only boys who demonstrate little aggression in their DNA survive. In The Gender Game, Violet Bates, sentenced to death by Matrus for causing death through anger, is given the opportunity to redeem herself through undertaking a risky venture into Patrus…. and it twists and turns from there. I’ve finished The Gender Secret too, and The Gender Lie comes out on New Year’s Eve. Just the kind of thing I enjoy reading when tired – plenty of ‘moral tone’ to focus on!

The other book I downloaded is The Last Girl, and this is also set in a post-apocalyptic world (also the USA!) – in which by the mid-2020s, the birth of girls was incredibly rare, and so the government ‘imprisoned’ those who were born and undertook experiments seeking to find the ‘keystone’ that would reverse the ‘problem’. Our heroine escapes, finds she’s been lied to, and starts to find a way to release the others who were also captured. At the end of the first book she’s been in a wheelchair suffering paralysis for weeks – but her big toe has just moved… so I have the second book The Final Trade downloaded, and the third will be released in Spring 2017.



#EmptyShelf 2016 #23: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood (Bloomsbury, 2015)


Mentioning to a friend that I have always enjoyed dystopian/utopian (futurist) fiction (it always seemed to be a staple of my teenage reading, and more recently, books such as The Hunger Games, and TV series such as Black Mirror and Mr Robot), having just re-read the Divergent trilogy, he suggested I should try (and lent me) The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood.

In brief, Charmaine and Stan, who had been happily employed, mortgaged, and planning for kids, victims of a terrible economic crash, are reduced to living in their car, surviving on tips, having to escape from wherever they’ve parked 3-4 times a night. They then see an advert for Consilience, a ‘social experiment’, in which they’ll be offered regular work, a home of their own – but they’ll need to spend alternate months in a prison cell. Once in, there’s no escape, but they sign straight up, with the first year appearing pretty straightforward, but then they start to become obsessed with their ‘Alternate’, those who live in their house whilst they’re in prison… and life begins to unravel. Echoes of Big Brother and The Truman Show were in my mind whilst reading – control, conformity, and then challenge!

Now awaiting The Handmaid’s Tale to read!