Margaret Atwood

All posts tagged Margaret Atwood

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Erase Me: Positron, Episode Three – Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

Published March 23, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Erase Me all about?:

In the latest edge-of-your-seat episode of “Positron,” the Byliner Serial by renowned author Margaret Atwood, the dystopian dark comedy takes its darkest turn yet, pitting husband against wife and the human impulse to love against the animal instinct to survive.

Stan and Charmaine should have known better when they signed up for Consilience, a social experiment in which it’s the lawful who are locked up, while, beyond the gates, criminals wander the wasted streets of America.

The couple understand that to break the rules in so strictly regimented a place is dangerous; but, driven by boredom and lust, they do it anyway and betray each other and the system. As comeuppance, Stan finds himself the sexual plaything of a subversive member of the Consilience security team and in no time is made a pawn in a shadowy scheme to bring Consilience crashing down.

Meanwhile, his wife, Charmaine, is being held indefinitely at Positron Prison for her own sins. How far she’ll go to regain her good name and position is anyone’s guess, especially Stan’s. When he winds up paralyzed and tied to a gurney in the prison wing where Charmaine works, injecting toxic cocktails of drugs into troublesome Consilience citizens, will she save his neck or her own? Will she “erase” him permanently?

In “Erase Me,” it’s every man–and woman–for him or herself. Erotically charged, morally complex, wickedly funny, and hailed as “shockingly believable” by “The Globe and Mail,” Atwood’s “Positron” stories remind us that when a totalitarian state gets its grip on the human heart, marriage can be murder.

What did I think?:

If you’re familiar with my blog and my reading tastes, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of Margaret Atwood. She’s one of the authors where I am desperate to read all of her back catalogue and certainly intend to do so in the not so distant future. She has a talent for writing kooky, dystopian worlds that feel startlingly familiar combined with controversy and her trademark black humour. I was lucky enough to see Margaret speak when she came to the U.K. to promote her book, Hag-Seed, a re-telling of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest and long-listed for this years Baileys Prize For Women’s Fiction. I’m delighted to tell you that she was just as witty and intelligent as I had hoped for and it was fascinating to hear her speak.

But, I digress! Back to Erase Me. This is the third in Margaret Atwood’s Positron series which were released serially but have now been re-vamped in a novel by the author called The Heart Goes Last. I downloaded them as e-books when they were released one by one so I’m happy to continue reading them this way and then, of course, they count towards my Short Stories Challenge! If you haven’t come across this series before, you may want to check it out – the first is I’m Starved For You and the second, Choke Collar but I’ll try and keep this review as spoiler free as possible.

It follows Stan and Charmaine, husband and wife who sign up for a revolutionary new programme that involves two communities – a town Consilience and a prison Positron. By entering the programme they agree to spend some of their time in prison (with a paid job and relative comfort) and alternately in a home in the community, again with a paid job and guaranteed happiness. However, this programme is not all it seems. In Erase Me, we see husband and wife pitted against each other and their marriage and loyalty to Positron tested in the worst possible way. Neither Stan or Charmaine are able to contact each other and are completely unaware what the other is doing, thinks, etc so have to rely on a rogue element/double agent who are fighting to overturn the system and bring back democracy. Of course, they want the couple to be a part of it. But can Stan and Charmaine be brave enough to risk everything and return to a life that they were unhappy about in the first place? Especially as when they signed up for this experiment they were told unequivocally that there was no going back.

Okay, I have to admit when I first started this series of novellas I really didn’t know what to think! It was brash, funny, erotic in places (oo-er!) and I hadn’t the foggiest what was going on. By the end of Choke Collar however, I was fully invested in the story. The eroticism has been toned down, I must say if that’s not really your bag and I’m kind of relieved as the story seems to focus more on the characters and the system that they are involved in, which of course is what interested me and made me pick up the series in the first place! We don’t really see too much of Stan and Charmaine as a couple for one reason or another but I actually enjoy this more as we get to see their lives, thoughts and aspirations as separate individuals. Once again, Margaret Atwood comes up with a cracker of an ending and I am definitely intrigued now to see what is going to happen in the last part of the series – The Heart Goes Last (don’t be confused, it is the same title as the novel that has come out under her name!).

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: On The Banks Of Table River: (Planet Lucina, Andromeda Galaxy, AD 2319) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Part One

Published January 7, 2017 by bibliobeth

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Its a new year and time for some more short stories. I usually do short stories in three month blocks however I’ve been struggling to keep up with this so instead of calling this post January to March I shall call it Part One and see how I get on! This is what I’ll be reading in the first half of 2017:

The Raft by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

The Butcher Of Meena Creek by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

The Wishing Tree by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Faithful Lovers by Margaret Drabble from the collection The Story: Love Loss & The Lives Of Women

Double Room by Ramsey Campbell from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page

The Adventure Of The Engineer’s Thumb by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Erase Me: Positron, Episode Three – Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

On The Banks Of Table River: (Planet Lucina, Andromeda Galaxy, AD 2319) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

The Passenger by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Fleeing Complexity by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Short Stories Challenge – Choke Collar: Positron, Episode Two by Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

Published August 7, 2016 by bibliobeth

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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):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: Elephants In Captivity (Part One) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Short Stories Challenge 2016 – January to March

Published January 9, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Image from http://quotes.lifehack.org/quote/ali-smith/short-stories-consume-you-faster-theyre-connected/

Hooray for a new year and more short stories! This is what I’ll be reading for the first three months of 2016.

Week beginning 4th January 2016

Duet by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 11th January 2016

The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer by John Ajvide Lindqvist from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Week beginning 18th January 2016

Dreams In The Witch-House by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 25th January 2016

Enough Of This Shit Already by Tony Black from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Week beginning 1st February 2016

Stars Of Motown Shining Bright by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 8th February 2016

Charm For A Friend With A Lump by Helen Simpson from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Week beginning 15th February 2016

Paranoid: A Chant by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

Week beginning 22nd February 2016

Still Life by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Week beginning 29th February 2016

Notes From The House Spirits by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Week beginning 7th March 2016

How I Finally Lost My Heart by Doris Lessing from the collection The Story: Love, Loss And The Lives Of Women

Week beginning 14th March 2016

The Graveless Doll Of Eric Mutis by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Week beginning 21st March 2016

The Adventure Of The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 28th March 2016

Choke Collar: Positron, Episode Two by Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

WWW Wednesday #13

Published August 14, 2013 by bibliobeth

WWW Wednesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Click on the image to get to her blog!

I’ve been on holiday for two weeks in the beautiful Scottish Highlands, so this is my first WWW since returning, thanks as always to MizB for hosting!

To join in you need to answer 3 questions..

•What are you currently reading?

•What did you recently finish reading?

•What do you think you’ll read next?

Click on the book covers to take you to a link to find out more!

What are you currently reading?

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I loved Barbara Kingsolver’s previous book The Poisonwood Bible, and this, her latest novel, was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2013.

What did you recently finish reading?

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This book really surprised me! I’ve read it before my pre-blog days and thought it good, but second time round I loved it! My post can be found HERE.

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This stand-alone by the great Margaret Atwood is part of my Short Stories Challenge this year. It’s also part of a series, which I didn’t realise so am looking forward to the next installment. My review will be up very soon.

What do you think you’ll read next?:

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I’ve only read one Simon Mawer book before, The Glass Room, and absolutely loved it so looking forward to this! It will be a review by myself and my book-blogging sister, Chrissi.

What are you reading this Wednesday? Please leave your link and I’ll come take a look! Happy Reading Everyone!

Short Stories Challenge – I’m Starved For You, Margaret Atwood (stand-alone) from the Positron series

Published August 13, 2013 by bibliobeth

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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):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: These Hands – Kevin Brockmeier, from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky.

Challenge: Short Stories June to July

Published June 4, 2013 by bibliobeth

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The Challenge:

A podcast that I love and listen to regularly is Books on The Nightstand and it is they who are responsible for sparking my interest in the short story. They have dubbed 2013 the “year of the short story,” and to celebrate, one of their pod-casters is reading one short story a day. I cannot promise that dedication so have decided to read one story a week, after realising this is the perfect opportunity to start reading all those short story collections on my Kindle or in “tree-book” version that seem to be accumulating.

Until?…..

I’ve finished them all, of course!

A Two Month Plan – June to July

Week beginning 3rd June

The Mist – Stephen King from Skeleton Crew

Week beginning 10th June

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank – Nathan Englander from What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

Week beginning 17th June

Diving Belles – Lucy Wood from Diving Belles

Week beginning 24th June

The Blue Summit – Randy Taguchi from Fujisan

Week beginning 1st July

Vampires in the Lemon Grove – Karen Russell from Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Week beginning 8th July

A Scandal in Bohemia – Arthur Conan Doyle from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 15th July

Butcher’s Perfume – Sarah Hall from The Beautiful Indifference

Week beginning 22nd July

The Infamous Bengal Ming – Rajesh Parameswaran from I Am An Executioner

Week beginning 29th July

I’m Starved For You – Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

As always, if anyone would like to join me in a read-along, you are more than welcome. Happy Reading Everyone!