No stranger to the future, Margaret Atwood has outlined different possibilities, from The Handmaid’s Tale to her recent Maddaddam trilogy. There’s hope for the world she envisions in The Heart Goes Last (Nan A. Talese, $26.95), which addresses its rampant unemployment and homelessness, if not the abusive surveillance, by inviting people to move to Consilience, a high-security gated community where residents, for promising never to leave, are guaranteed a home and a job for life. Two jobs, in fact: one in town and one in the Positron Project, aka prison, where they spend every other month. This allows two families to share each living space, gets work done that benefits the group, and weeds out undesirables. The Procedure (and a brisk trade in body parts) also takes care of the latter, a group defined solely by the CEO of this for-profit social experiment. As dystopian shadows creep across the relentlessly sunny community, one couple in particular is caught in more than they bargained for. Their marriage is first tested by old fashioned seduction, then by a Brain Intervention that wipes out one love object and imprints another, and finally by the wife’s willingness to perform The Procedure on her husband. Atwood’s novel is an unsettling yet often funny satire, mixed with a bawdy romp and traces of Milton’s Paradise Lost.
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