Recently I finished Margaret Atwood’s latest novel, The Heart Goes Last (Doubleday). It’s another dystopia, set in the indefinite but near future, after American society has largely crumbled. It’s a society overpopulated with the homeless, where work is hard to find. The novel begins with its protagonists, the married couple Stan and Charmaine, jobless and living out their car in the Pacific Northwest. Recently a corporation has initiated the Positron Project. Under Positron, participants alternately spend a month in a modest home and a month in prison. In prison they provide cheap (free) labor, building robots and other goods.
Out of desperation, Stan and Charmaine enroll in Positron. But it’s not all they had hoped for. Soon Charmaine is embroiled in a dark plot that includes euthanizing social offenders. And Stan is fantasizing about a woman other than Charmaine. Both want out of Positron, but they have signed on for life.
Atwood’s story is about their eventual escape, which involves espionage, Elvis impersonators, and sex robots. Needless to say, it’s a rollicking story, punctuated with humor. I wouldn’t say it is among Atwood’s best, but The Heart Goes Last is another solid effort from one of our most entertaining and interesting writers.