Mini Reviews: Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson & The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Let’s talk about books that everyone seems to adore, books that are considered masterpieces in their respective genre and that I didn’t enjoy at all.

Since I seem to have unpopular opinions about them, I figured it would be interesting to review and to discuss them with you to see why you enjoyed those books more (or not) than me, since those are very popular books, I think it will be interesting to see the different opinions!

 

  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood ★★★

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Offred, our narrator and main protagonist, is a handmaid. Her mission is to bear children for rich people  and if cannot do that, she will be sent in slave camp. The story takes place in a dystopian American society, The Republic of Gilead, where women are looked down upon and in some cases, are turned into sex slaves.

I was expecting a lot from this book since it is considered to be one of the best dystopian books out there. I did found some parts extremeley interesting, for example, I was fascinated by the fact that the political regime that turned the USA into a a very oppressive society was very young but that it did everything to make iself appears old and so, legitimate. In this aspect, it reminded me a lot of fascist Germany, indeed the Nazis were inspired by the Roman Empire (their symbol and constructions for example) because that was a way to show that their regime was in the continuity of something very old which was a way to help people forget how the society worked before them.

I found Offred’s flashbacks fascinating because they allowed us to see how everything changed and how people just let everything happened to them because it was easier for them. Those sections were poignant however, I couldn’t relate to Offred and her life as a handmaid at all. Her narration felt incredibly distant and I couldn’t feel anything for her even when what she was in the middle of what should have been horrifying to me. I was bored while reading and toward the end, I found myself skimming large chunks of this novel.

I feel like this story should have grab me more, maybe it would have if I had read it sooner, I might have read and seen too many things similar to this but infortunately, even if had interesting things to say, I wasn’t blown away or particularly interested by what was happening at all.

I might give the TV show a chance to see if seeing Offred and the other characters going through all this things will have more impact on me that the novel.

 

 

  • Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson ★★

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I tried to read this book once before back in 2016 and I just couldn’t do it, I tried again in March and I finally succeeded in finishing it. It was one of my most anticipated releases back in 2015 and since it had been called “the best SF book of 2015” numerous times by people whose bookish opinions I trust deeply (like the guys at The Coode Street Podcast), I was pretty certain I was going to like it. Well, ugh…

If you don’t know what this books is about, it follows a generationship’s journey to Aurora, an Earth-like planet that could sustain life. We follow the crew of the ship when the ship is near Aurora and how they deal with some unexpected issues. If this book hadn’t been an essay on “Why we shouldn’t attempt to colonize another planet because it is going to end up all wrong”, I think I would have liked this very much.

Objectively, it is brilliant. KSR did an amazing research work, everything was detailed and explained and for an amateur of hard SF, this book is a candy. I liked the technical bits quite a lot, the narration was really interesting (especially how it evolved) and the pacing was good. So, as I said, objectively, I can see why people admire this work so much.

Subjectively, I freakin’ disliked this. I am not the most optimistic person on Earth at all, I think we humans are selfish and that we tend to make the same mistakes over and over again. However, I still have a part of me that loves SF stories where humans managed to colonize planets, encounters aliens and be at peace. I love watching Star Trek episodes and seeing humans exploring different worlds. It might be unachievable but still, a girl can hope. So, having someone repeatedly and scientifically destroying my dream isn’t what I like to read for leisure.

Overall, KSR’s message was fairly clear, we should take care of our planet instead of trying to find another one. I get that and I agree but still, reading about all the struggle of the people on the ship was hard, depressing as hell and just an awful lot of “not fun”.

 

Have you read those books? What did you think of them?

 

 

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11 thoughts on “Mini Reviews: Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson & The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

  1. I’ve only read Red Mars by KSR and that so turned me off that I’ve never tried another one. And the people who have read, and raved, about Handmaid were usually of a group whose tastes were opposite of mine.

    So not much of a discussion from me 🙂

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  2. I think Handmade is overrated too. I liked it, but ultimately found it totally unbelievable.

    Aurora was my top read of 2015. I found its message interesting and not depressing at all – on the contrary, it made me appreciate the wonder of life on Earth even more.

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    • I can see why people would like this book, as I said I can see why it’s brilliant and I can’t really explain in details why I disliked it so much which is weird. I gues it’s a case of “it’s not you it’s me” which is weird because, if I take all the elements of the book separately, I should have liked it, it might have been a case of bad timing, I don’t know. I will give KSR books another shot, I’m intrigued by his last book so I will try this one hopefully this year!

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  3. I read the Handmaid’s Tale a long time ago and liked it very much, as I did on a more recent re-read: I guess that what you perceived as Offred’s distance from the reader might be the distance she tries to place between herself and her true feelings, because if she allowed herself that luxury she would go stark, raving mad in that kind of world (((shudder))).

    As for Aurora (that I would like to read, especially after Bormgan’s recent recommendation), while I can understand the author’s plea about taking care of our planet, because – for the time being – it is the only home we have, I can’t accept his point of view that we should never leave our… cradle – if that is what I understand he’s saying in this book. Because we need to remember that this “home” will not last forever, that in a far distant future our sun will go out and if we will not have found another home, or many other homes, all that we are and we have achieved will be lost forever. IMHO, of course…

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    • It might have been that yes, I’m glad I read it, it’s not a classic dystopian for nothing but I think I expected too much from it because of that. It’s a book I will probably reread in the future because it might grow on me with time!
      I would love to read your review if you read it, I think it’s an important SF books and that is worth the hype. It didn’t work for me but it didn’t left me indifferent and I am still thinking about it weeks after reading it.

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  4. I have a copy of Aurora that I just never got around to reading. I still would like to, so I kept it, but it just moves farther back on my list every day it seems. I do want to read Handmaiden’s Tale still and in fact I am kind of embarrassed that I have not.

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    • The Handmaid’s Tale was a book I wanted to read for years but that I never seem to make time for, when I saw it was going to be turned into a TV show and that Tor.com was doing a read-a-long of it, it finally gave me the push to read it and I am glad I did! I have many books that I am kind of embarrassed I haven’t read too, I still haven’t read any Le Guin or Cherryh for example and I need to remedy that soon!

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