The Heart Goes Last: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 29, 2015
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—Mat Johnson, New York Times Book Review
"[The Heart Goes Last] affords an arresting perspective on the confluence of information, freedom, and security in the modern age."
—The New Yorker
"This is quintessential Atwood territory, a bleak dystopian landscape littered with shady types who engage in twisted sexual manipulation and scientific engineering reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake ... The writing here is so persuasive, so crisp, that it seeps under your skin ... [This] fast-paced novel is hard to put down when it comes screaming to its clever and terrifying conclusion."
"The Heart Goes Last rides a wave of dark energy. It’s rare apocalyptic entertainment ... Not only does Atwood sketch out an all-too-possible future but she also looks to the past, tapping into archetypes from fairy tales and myth, giving the novel a resonance beyond satire. Meanwhile, she ratchets up the tension and gleefully knocks down the fictive world she created."
"A gripping, psychologically acute portrayal of our own future gone totally wrong, and the eternal constant of flawed humanity."
"Another Atwood classic."
—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“At first a classic Atwood dystopia, rationally imagined and developed, [The Heart Goes Last] relaxes suddenly into a kind of surrealist adventure. The satirical impulse foregrounds itself. Narrative drive ramps up … Atwood allows her sense of the absurd its full elbow room; her cheerfully caustic contempt–bestowed even-handedly on contemporary economics, retro culture, and the social and neurological determination of identity–goes unrestrained … Jubilant comedy of errors, bizarre bedroom farce, SF prison-break thriller, psychedelic 60s crime caper: The Heart Goes Last scampers in and out of all of these genres, pausing only to quote Milton on the loss of Eden or Shakespeare on weddings. Meanwhile, it performs a hard-eyed autopsy on themes of impersonation and self-impersonation, revealing so many layers of contemporary deception and self-deception that we don’t know whether to laugh or cry.”
“[The Heart Goes Last] opens with an evocation of sub-prime poverty so hopeless, so crushing, and yet so engrossing that within 10 pages you don’t know whether to weep or applaud … You never lose the eerie feeling that each feature of this world could rematerialise in our own. It’s what makes her fiction the opposite of the escapism of the geek genres. It’s the lack of an escape route that shapes the predicaments of Atwood’s characters. That and an imagination without equal.”
—London Evening Standard
"Ever-inventive, astutely observant, and drolly ironic, Atwood unfurls a riotous plot of corporate rule, erotic mayhem, sexbots, brain-washing, murder, and Elvis and Marilyn impersonators. Her bristling characters range from right-on caricatures to unpredictably complicated individuals, especially the unnerving Charmaine. Atwood’s ribald carnival of crazy deftly examines fear and the temptation to trade the confusion of choice and freedom for security, whatever the cost. This laser-sharp, hilariously campy, and swiftly flowing satire delves deeply into our desires, vices, biases, and contradictions, bringing fresh, incisive comedy to the rising tide of postapocalyptic fiction in which Atwood has long been a clarion voice."
—Booklist, starred review
About the Author
- Item Weight : 1.4 pounds
- Hardcover : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0385540353
- ISBN-13 : 978-0385540353
- Publisher : Nan A. Talese; Canadian First Edition (September 29, 2015)
- Product Dimensions : 6.6 x 0.6 x 9.6 inches
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #673,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's certainly a highly readable book—a pageturner of sorts. And it starts off with an interesting premise: Stan and Charmaine, a homeless couple living out of their car, accept an opportunity to take part in an experiment that promises to solve unemployment and crime and provide people with a meaningful life. Once they sign that contract, they'll live out the rest of their lives in a gated community with everything they need...the only catch is that they have to spend every other month in the community's prison system.
What begins as a compelling commentary on the prison industrial complex and the inevitable downsides of utopian societies goes completely off the rails halfway through and devolves into something else entirely. In fact, at times it's hard to believe you're still reading the same story.
It seems like Atwood came into this with lots of really interesting disparate ideas that she wasn't able to converge into a cohesive narrative. Or maybe not...maybe she just wanted to write something completely out there.
As a full novel, if didn't really work for me. And it didn't help that the final quarter was way too drawn out. Also worth mentioning is that the characters of Stan and Charmaine behaved in ways that were frustratingly inconsistent with my understanding of them.
I don't know. It's honestly amazing to me that the same person who wrote The Handmaid's Tale wrote this.
A wacked, absurd, comical novel that becomes obvious satire as the novel continues. As I read this book, I initially took it very seriously, trying to connect with the characters, understand motives, etc. However, by the end with the sexbots, possibilibots, Elvises and Marilyns it became obvious that the book is entirely satirical and meant to be comical. It also serves as a cautionary tale of “be careful what you wish for.” Having someone who loves you only because she has had the laser treatment may not be so fulfilling and rewarding in the end. Perhaps loving someone so completely is easier if you think you’ve had a brain surgery to make you do so.
I was so excited to embark on this novel after reading the premise: a couple destitute in this futuristic world decides to sign up for “Consilience,” a social experiment, where you spend alternate months in a prison and in a home with stable jobs within the confines of Positron. Their relationship becomes strange and a whole lot of sex ensues, none of which is really sexy. Their freedoms have been lost by joining this program and they have seemingly signed their own personalities away as well. They become different, much more superficial in their needs and wants. It’s almost as if having decisions made for them is appreciated, especially on Charmaine’s part.
In sum, I enjoyed the initial unravelling of the exciting premise. This segued to the drudgery of the mid-section where the characters are acting like robots and no one is very likable, and finally to the last portion which is an overwhelmingly satirical picture of the future where no one is happy having an ordinary relationship or partner, but instead seeks out a paid or modified companion.
I’m a big fan of Margaret Atwood. This is the 7th novel of hers that I’ve read and maybe my 6th or 7th favorite of them all. She’s an excellent writer and this is humorous/chilling social commentary, but I didn’t connect with it as well as I have some of her other novels.
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This book is quirky, odd, dark and sometimes funny. I would say it’s like Kurt Vonnegut wrote 1984.
If you want something that’s committed to a specific emotional theme (all dark and serious, totally lighthearted, etc.) this is not for you.
However, if you’re interested in a good writer telling an offbeat story well, you might really enjoy it.
A few words of caution: I was hooked by the free sample, but the introductory section is not indicative of the book, so be prepared for a major shift in the overall tone.
Top reviews from other countries
Not wishing to sound prudish, I would still say there is too much shabby and loveless sex and too few characters to care about.