The Handmaid's Tale - Betty Harris, Margaret Atwood "In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it."

The world of the near-future has changed. Women are no longer free, independent thinkers; now, they are segregated into tasks. Wives, Marthas, Handmaids, Econowives. This is the world, Offred, a Handmaid, now lives in. This is the world she must survive.

This is an amazing book. With all these dystopian novels rushing to print, with more thought to romantic pairings than to the actual dystopian society they live in, it's refreshing to read something like "The Handmaid's Tale", a tale that wonderfully, yet scarily, dictates a future in which women's liberties are virtually gone.

We see this scary world through Offred's eyes. Once upon a time, she was married, had a child, but that is all gone. What keeps her going is the memories of the time before: the time where she fell in love with a man, where she had friends, such as Moira, where she had a job and an education and a life of her own. I enjoyed learning about her past, how she got to be a Handmaid, how she survived the day-to-day ritual. Offred is a strong woman, more than all these nearly masculine "action girls" we see so much these days. She has a strength of character, a strength of heart that carries her through this novel, that keeps her alive.

The world that Atwood paints is, unlike many dystopian novels (the one I'm thinking of is Divergent), startlingly convincing. I could believe that religious zealots could take over, that they would try to solve the population problems by resorting to the Old Testament stories. I could believe the divisions in women's roles, their freedoms being stripped away. I could believe the drastic measures against those that defied the rules. Atwood has done an amazing job of finding what is most important, what makes a society work and has brought that forth in a changed view. And her creation is most terrifying. It could easily be me in Offred's shoes. It could be me that suddenly has no job, that suddenly has to rely on men for money, that suddenly is torn away from my family and friends, that suddenly is trained and indoctrinated into being nothing more than a body to get pregnant.

If I have any faults with this book, it's the speed with which this society has taken root. I understand that it is still in rebellion with the surrounding areas, but I still thought it strange that almost overnight the government is in the Religious Reformists' hands. I know these things can come quickly, but still, I felt it almost weird.

The other fault I do have is I found the story somewhat hard to follow, since Offred slips between present and past quite fluidly. I listened to this on audiobook and had to constantly backtrack to figure out where I was. Oh, and the narrator, with her rising pitch at the end of nearly every sentence (even when it isn't a question), was annoying. I am still not sure what she was trying to do with that.

This is one of those books you should read before you die, even if you aren't a science fiction/dystopia/speculative fiction fan. This book gives insights into our society today, shines a light on what is important, and warns of what could come in the future.

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum