What’s I’m Starved For You all about?:
The gated community of Consilience isn’t your average American town, but in a near future imagined by bestselling author Margaret Atwood (“The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Year of the Flood”) it may be as close as anyone can hope to get.
Husband and wife Stan and Charmaine are among thousands who have signed up for a new social order because the old one is all but broken. Outside the walls of Consilience, half the country is out of work, gangs of the drug-addicted and disaffected menace the streets, warlords disrupt the food supply, and overcrowded correctional facilities churn out offenders to make room for more.
The Consilience prison, Positron, is something else altogether. The very heart of the community and its economic engine, it’s a bold experiment in voluntary incarceration. In exchange for a house, food, and what the online brochure hails as “A Meaningful Life,” residents agree to spend one month as inmates, the next as civilians, working as guards or whatever’s required.
Stan and Charmaine have no complaints—until the day Stan discovers an erotic note under the fridge of the house he and Charmaine must share with another couple while they’re back inside Positron. It’s a missive of erotic longing, pressed with a vivid lipstick kiss: “I’m starved for you!” it breathes. If Stan rarely thought about the house’s other residents before—they’ve never met them and don’t know their names; it’s not allowed—now he can’t stop thinking about them, especially the note’s sex-addled author, a woman apparently named Jasmine, so unlike his girlish wife, Charmaine. He HAS to meet her, but in this highly ordered and increasingly surveilled world, disorderly thoughts are a risk, and breaking the rules has dire consequences.
What did I think?:
We all know Margaret Atwood has written some great stories, Alias Grace and The Handmaid’s Tale stand out for me personally, so I was intrigued to read this short and strange little story that is the first of a series placed in a dystopian future world. In this world, known as Consilience, volunteers are required for a new experiment in living. As prisons become over-run, crime is rife and people are literally “starving,” the community offers a month in dedicated housing with a specific job and income, then a spell in the Positron (or prison) working on alternate months. All a bit confusing, as you wonder why someone would voluntarily incarcerate themselves. However, the guarantee of a decent job both inside and outside, and the complete lack of brutality whilst within the Positron whilst contributing to something worthwhile, seems like a good offer and one that many gladly take up.
Our main characters, Stan and Charmaine, a married couple are stuck in a bit of a rut. Although their relationship is stable, it progresses along in a hum-drum manner and neither individual are happy with their lot. After a month in their allocated housing they both enter Positron for another month, kept apart from each other but involved in meaningful tasks like er… looking after chickens and bumping off people who form a threat or need to be got rid of for some unknown reason. An Alternate couple take Stan and Charmaine’s place in the housing for a month, but the two couples are forbidden to meet. When Stan finds a hidden note from the Alternate woman apparently to her husband which is slightly saucy, his imagination goes into overdrive and he considers breaking the Consilience rules to meet this woman and find a little excitement in his life. His wife Charmaine, on the other hand, has a naughty little secret of her own.
I adore Margaret Atwood’s writing style, and like with her other works, I felt at home with this story immediately. The dystopian Big Brother world she presents is unique and intriguing, and I’m glad this is a series of stories so I can further satisfy my curiosity. The thought of drone cars patrolling a city to keep an eye on things is eerie, and she describes the coldness and rigidity of life under the Consilience beautifully. Although Stan and Charmaine are not really likeable characters, the roles they fulfil in society are interesting and I can’t wait to delve a bit deeper in the follow-up. My only issue/criticism is that I feel it ended too abruptly, but on a positive note, it will probably make sure I read on.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: These Hands – Kevin Brockmeier, from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky.