Most people hope for a better future, a peaceful future that’s happier and healthier for all of us. But what if it’s not? What if things are much worse? The books this week explore what the world would look like if something big, that changes everything, were to happen. These worlds are strange and different, and sometimes disturbing. And yet, reading about them can only make us appreciate what we have right now, and strive to make it a better place for the future.
The Power, by Naomi Alderman – The book starts out in a world we would recognize, until one day teenage girls and a few women develop a new organ that gives them the power to cause immense pain, and even death. This sudden change completely upends the entire world, derailing and reversing societal gender dynamics across the globe. The book follows four characters: a teenage girl in London from a rough background, a foster girl who escapes years of abuse, an American politician who is one of the only women to develop the power, and a young Nigerian boy who captures some of the earliest footage of the world as it changes. Strongly feminist, it asks the question of what would women do with such power? How would they use it take back their bodies and the world from the men that have held them down for centuries? It’s powerful and thought provoking, and is a must read for all fans of speculative fiction.
Future Home of the Living God, by Louise Erdrich – Cedar Hawk Songmaker is a young woman living in a world where evolution has suddenly started to reverse itself. All over the world, women are giving birth to babies that seem to be of a more primitive species. She herself is four months pregnant, and is trying to find her birth mother, while keeping her pregnancy a secret. People everywhere are beginning to panic, and the authorities are kidnapping pregnant women and new mothers, and confining them. The reversal of evolution is happening to all species, and science can’t do anything to stop it. This one is about human rights, oppression, and how much agency and power women have over their own bodies. It’s a fascinating and disturbing look at a world where humans lose the illusion of control over the planet, and how far we might go to hold on to it.
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel – During a production of King Lear, Arthur Leander has a heart attack on stage and dies. A few hours later, the world begins to change forever. Twenty years later, most of the world’s population is gone, and the remaining people live in small settlements, getting by the best that they can. Kirsten Raymonde travels with a theater group that calls themselves The Travelling Symphony. When they reach the town of St. Deborah by the Water, ruled over by a violent prophet, the group’s existence is threatened. The book jumps back and forth between this post-apocalyptic world, and the world before things fell apart. It’s about loneliness, the importance of art and culture, and the search for something better.
You can find a list with these three books and more like them by clicking here.