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By now we know what to expect from a Margaret Atwood novel: a dose of dystopia, a bleak scenario that seems scarily feasible, a commentary on societal ills veiled in fiction. But within that framework the Canadian author always comes up with something good and The Heart Goes Last is no exception.
It is a fast-paced blend of the sinister and the farcical set in the near future. With the US economy failing Stan and Charmaine are unemployed and reduced to living in their car. Perky Charmaine tries to keep her spirits up but it isn’t easy. So when they hear of a social experiment called the Positron Project that will ensure them a comfortable home and financial security for life, Charmaine is keen to sign up.
Their new engineered lives in the town of Consiliance involve a spending a month in suburban bliss and then a month in prison while another couple, their Alternates, take over their home. Even if the things Charmaine has to do as part of her work are worrisome; it’s worth it for the stability. But then she and Stan become involved with their Alternates and discover all in Consiliance is not what it seems.
With a gaggle of Elvis impersonators, robots built for pleasure and Atwood’s caustic, clever mastery over the chaos she creates; The Heart Goes Last is a playful exploration of human failings.