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 ★★★
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 ★★
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?