What’s it all about?:
In this second, steamy episode of the new Byliner Serial Positron, Margaret Atwood picks up where she left off in her dystopian dark comedy I’m Starved for You , mining wholly deviant territory where a totalitarian state collides with the chaos of human desire.
Husband and wife Stan and Charmaine face more troubles in safe but carefully controlled Consilience, a social experiment in which the lawful are locked up and criminals roam the wasteland beyond the gates that is the America of Margaret Atwood’s creepily plausible near future.
In the world of Choke Collar, when you surrender your civil liberties, you enter a funhouse of someone else’s making.
What did I think?:
Margaret Atwood is without a doubt one of my favourite living authors at the moment and I was delighted to discover her Positron series in e-book format which consists of four short stories (so far) based in a dystopian, freakishly possible future. If you haven’t read the first story, I’m Starved For You, it’s probably best to start with that as this second instalment, Choke Collar, picks up right where the first left off.
Our two main characters are married couple Stan and Charmaine who have volunteered for a new project in their community – known as Consilience. Every other month, they are obliged to enter Positron, a prison environment to build the future for the next generation while an alternate husband and wife team live in their house and go about their daily lives. The following month, they swap over, take over the house from the Alternates and carry on with life as normal. In return, all their debts are written off, they are guaranteed stable and well-paid jobs on the “outside,” and decent treatment and “a meaningful life,” whilst inside the prison. However, they are forbidden any contact at all with their Alternates, even finding out who they are and this causes problems for the couple when Charmaine does just that in the first story.
In Choke Collar, Stan and Charmaine have been split up and whilst Charmaine languishes inside Positron for months longer than the obligatory one month, Stan is living with Jocelyn, who is the Alternate wife and she is making him pay big time for Charmaine’s misdemeanours and secret rendezvous with her husband, who Charmaine knows as Max. Stan is miserable with the way he is being treated and although he is desperately angry with his unfaithful wife, he even starts to worry about her slightly compared to what he has to put up with from Jocelyn. Yet things are not exactly as they seem and when Stan uncovers what Jocelyn is really up to, it could threaten the Consilience programme as a whole and be extremely dangerous for both himself and his wife Charmaine.
When I first started this series I wasn’t sure what to expect and I’ve got to say, I was a bit surprised by the story that Margaret Atwood had to tell. It teeters right on the edge of being overly sexual but is endlessly fascinating and I adore the dystopian element that she brings to her fiction. I actually enjoyed Choke Collar a lot more than the previous story and really appreciated the cliffhanger of an ending that makes me very eager to read the next instalment – Erase Me, which I’m more than certain is going to be brilliant. The author’s most recent novel, The Heart Goes Last is based on the Positron world and from what I’ve read so far, features the same characters. I’m not sure whether it is the same stories moulded together to make a novel but I’m definitely keen to find out and will probably explore it once I’ve finished these four short stories – the world that she creates here is too interesting not to!
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: Elephants In Captivity (Part One) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories