Living in their car, surviving on tips, Charmaine and Stan are in a desperate state. So, when they see an advertisement for Consilience, a ‘social experiment’ offering stable jobs and a home of their own, they sign up immediately. All they have to do in return for suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month – swapping their home for a prison cell. At first, all is well. But then, unknown to each other, Stan and Charmaine develop passionate obsessions with their ‘Alternates,’ the couple that occupy their house when they are in prison. Soon the pressures of conformity, mistrust, guilt and sexual desire begin to take over. – Goodreads
I’m going to be honest: I slogged through this one.
Stan and Charmaine live in a not-too-distant time in the United States where the economy has shattered and many people have lost their jobs. Stan and Charmaine live out of their car in constant fear of someone trying to steal it—until they stumble upon Consilience.
The most difficult part of this book was its believability. Sure, when you’re reading you have a certain suspension of disbelief, but this one never really clicked for me. It was absurd, and it frequently pulled me out of the story with every odd plot twist.
Anyway, they give up their freedom, their car living lifestyle, to partake in an experiment. They must alternate between living in prison and a 1950’s community.
Much of the novel is social commentary, but some is taken to a ridiculous, obnoxious extreme. For example, men are so hellbent on having sex with women that they will rape whatever they can—in this case, women, chickens, and androids. Charmaine’s view toward sex portrays her as simply an object—and a job—for Stan to have sex with.
I’m annoyed and confused and WTF after reading this. I really didn’t enjoy it, but I did enjoy Atwood’s prose. I rated this a 2/5 on Goodreads.
Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to check this out in exchange for an honest review.