The premise of the book seems to be that the world has descended into a state of turmoil; all hell has broken loose on the ground with joblessness, poverty, starvation, and lawlessness growing in many cities. However, those who can afford to rise above the fray, actually do. They live in floating cells/pods, in their own self-contained fully functioning societies, and apparently, they are all now preoccupied with creative ways to satisfy their sexual needs, and to this end, the idea of robots servicing their needs is the next Silicon Valley get-rich idea, albeit, not in Silicon Valley.
A town called Concilience (combining the word convict with resilience) is created by the Positron Project. The establishment of this controlled community will supposedly eliminate civil disobedience and create a better world by providing full employment and equal opportunity. The deterioration of society in certain parts of the country will no longer be an issue with the growth of these cooperative environments. Everyone will be taken care of fairly. In these new communities, residents will spend half their time in the Positron prison and half their time in a luxurious home. An alternate family will share the home and prison cell every other month. Their lives will be completely controlled and all needs will be provided for them. They will be given jobs, one of the three choices they select, and although they will be at the mercy of the administrators for all decisions, there should be no reason to complain. There is one problematic codicil, once they sign on, they may never leave. The environment of the 1950’s was determined to be the most peaceful and comfortable and so everything in this created community is in that style right down to the music and clothing, food and television shows. It seems like a “Leave It To Beaver” perfect world combined with “Father Knows Best”.
In the end, however, some of those who had previously not been tempted to do anything wrong or immoral, were soon tempted to be unfaithful, and they broke the rules, possibly because of the ho hum, boring existence they were forced to endure day after day. In addition, greed somehow reared its ugly head, once again, with some wanting more than they were entitled to and more than they already had. Perhaps a natural consequence of being human is stretching the envelope and tempting fate. This old saying was also in evidence, “absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
In truth, although the imagination of Atwood was still feverishly at work, and she created an unusual narrative, infused with humor, albeit obsessed with a world that wanted nothing more than satisfying sex, it was disappointing. It did make me wonder, though, with all of the stress today, on sex enhancing drugs, and drugs that induce pleasure, are we not, perhaps, going in that direction? Perhaps Margaret Atwood is a visionary once again, as she was in “The Handmaid’s Tale”, with the idea of surrogate mothers. (I hope my remark is tongue in cheek and not a foretelling of the future.) I stuck with the book because of my respect for the author, but the plot seemed implausible and the sexual preoccupation seemed ridiculous. It was hard to take seriously, a woman who falls madly in love with a teddy bear in a medical procedure gone wrong, and Elvis impersonators as spies and vigilantes, simply did not capture my interest.
On the positive side, the character development was very detailed and the narrators were excellent, getting into the character’s heads and playing their roles well. Also, I did not realize that this was part of a series of books, and I did not read the first three, (“I’m Starved For You”, “Choke Collar” and “Erase Me”), so perhaps if I had, I would have had a different reaction.