Backlist Love is an informal series on “older” books that I hope you’ll find interesting. These aren’t so much reviews as quickie recommendations, so check out Goodreads or your favorite book review sources if you want more info.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Anchor Books, 1998)
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (Delacorte, 1969)
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now….
Kurt Vonnegut’s absurdist classic introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut’s) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.
Why I liked them
Don’t let the title of this post fool you — even though these books aren’t exactly uplifting, they do give me ALL THE FEELS. They’re both very political, tackling super tough topics like war and misogyny, but through the lens of somewhat absurd (initially, anyway) sci-fi circumstances.
Who I’d recommend them to
Um… everyone? OK, I guess folks who aren’t really into spec fic in the first place will probably not appreciate these books as much as they ought to be appreciated. I’d especially recommend The Handmaid’s Tale to folks who got really into the recent YA dystopian craze — especially to young women who are exploring their political opinions/options for the first time. Slaughterhouse-Five is a must-read for fans of Star Trek and other classic, thought-provoking science fiction stuff.
The Handmaid’s Tale
- Margaret Atwood’s official website
- Margaret Atwood’s profile at the Poetry Foundation
- ‘Does The Handmaid’s Tale Hold Up?’ at The Verge
- ‘9 Reasons The Handmaid’s Tale Is As Relevant As Ever, 30 Years Later’ at Bustle