The Handmaid's Tale brought Margaret Atwood to the attention of many readers, and it was the first of her novels that I read as well. I still think about this chilling paragraph which so masterfully sets the tone of the story to come:

     "A chair, a table, a lamp. Above, on the white ceiling, a relief ornament in the shape of a wreath, and in the center of it a blank space, plastered over, like the place in a face where the eye has been taken out. There must have been a chandelier once. They've removed anything you could tie a rope to."

If you haven't read The Handmaid's Tale, you should, but I also want to recommend her somewhat lesser known novel, Oryx and Crake. Oryx and Crake jumps back and forth in the life of a man named Jimmy. As a boy, Jimmy lives in one of the last few protected corporate enclaves which are surrounded by swathes of lawless misery. As an old man, he wanders these wastes after even the last walls have crumbled. Throughout the story we see the weird and horrible fallout of unrestrained genetic engineering programs. This outer ruin is reflected in Jimmy's inner alienation and obsession with the damaged survivor of a child sex trafficking operation. This thoroughly horrible story is, however, told in an almost fairy-tale like manner which makes it incredibly engaging rather than too depressing to bear.

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