- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: 4th Estate - GB (16 November 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0008295441
- ISBN-13: 978-0008295448
- Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 3.1 x 24 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 921 g
- Customer Reviews:
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 315,431 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Hazards Of Time Travel Hardcover – 13 Dec 2018
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‘A dystopian narrative in which the indomitable Oates seems to be flexing new muscles … unrelentingly disturbing’ Observer
‘Immerse yourself in this spooky novel .. the hazards of time travel are vivid and frightening indeed’ New Statesman
‘Prescient, unpredictable … charged by the horrors of our Orwellian era’ Independent
‘Joyce Carol Oates taps deep into contemporary anxieties over the rise of surveillance, totalitarian governments and invasive technology … [she has an] unerring ability to reflect the times in which we live’ Daily Mail
‘Nothing is as it seems in this accelerating swirl of political and academic satire, science fiction and romantic melodrama. At 80, after more than 40 novels, Oates is still casting some awfully dark magic’ Washington Post
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Top international reviews
I was so excited about the premise of this book and so so disappointed in the delivery of a book that I thought would be a wonderful midpoint of my favorite genre - time travel and dystopian adventure. The only way that this book makes the vaguest of sense is if it is a satire of dystopian fiction, written as insultingly terrible as a statement on her opinion of the genre... which I am in no way convinced that it is, given the summary, all the reviews, and the way it is written.
The main character is a 17 year old girl who starts as meek and passive and is exiled when she 'accidentally' gives a practice speech for the valedictorian achievement, which she receives also on accident, because it is considered illegal and she is exiled to the past. From there she makes not one single decision in the entire book, everything just happens to her as as she is treated as a set piece. The only plot point in the whole book is that she is stalker level obsessed with a comic-book style creep and thinks about him constantly. She follows him, does his laundry and dishes, and is set dressing for his more interesting backstory.... is this a commentary on how women are often treated in science-fiction? maybe, maybe not, but either way you still have to read hours of a woman being used as an object with no autonomy, back story, thought, redeeming characteristics, or development of any kind....
The actual style is almost journalistic - it is just a list of what happens, there are very few 'scenes' where anything happens, anyone interacts or says anything or anyone makes any decisions whatsoever. A vast majority of the book is either the main character thinking to herself about how obsessed she is with this man she has barely met, explanations of the alphabet soup of the 'future' government, and in depth descriptions of the psychological principals which were outdated, disgusting, and never disputed or discussed in any meaningful way - for example the bigwig professor is setting up a center for electroshock therapy for gay people, which nobody (future travelers included) seems to think is wrong, or in any way worth discussing, it is just mentioned about 10 times and left there among the other over discussed psychological junk.
The romance in the book is perhaps the worst part, the main character is obsessed with an assistant professor she barely knows, she follows him around and about half the text is her thinking about how much she 'loves him' and decides that the best way to get his attention is to just do whatever he says and be his house keeper to make him 'need' her. Eventually he convinces her to try and escape their imprisonment, which she has no opinion or thoughts on, she just goes along because she wants him to love her. In the end the only thing she ever does is fall in love fast, make herself subservient and in no way act as an active participant in her life. Once again this could be a satire of how fast characters often fall in love in the genre..... but I'm not convinced that this is the case, and either way it is painful and insulting to read
I wish I could get a refund on the time and money I spent on this book
The school is filled with professors involved in Skinnerian behavioral experiments which makes the reader honk it is something other than what it seems. Is it really 1959? How are exiles rehabilitated? Is there really a chip in her brain? And she falls in love with Ira Wolfman, a non-tenured professor who is revealed to also be in Exile. As the year goes by Mary Ellen Enright (her new name) begins to forget her past, joins a nuclear protest, and thinks about running away with Ira despite knowing that she could be vaporized if caught. In the end more questions arise about who and where she is than answers provided.
Oates' plot bogs down in psychological theories of the day and the ending was wholly unsatisfying for me. I love dystopian novels but this is one of the weakest plots I have read.
I suspect someone referred Joyce Carol Oates to the renewed success of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and Stephen King’s mammoth “11/22/63” time travel novel and this is the feeble result.
Adriane is not a sympathetic or likable character. She is a passive victim and that is the entirety of the book’s theme. Her father committed some jacked up dystopian crime, went to jail and lost his job and status but poor Adriane! She was chosen valedictorian and was arrested for her subversive speech, but blames her underachieving, resentful brother she obviously despises for ratting on her to the authorities, so poor Adriane! She is the center of her own miserable universe; even while she randomly pontificates the pros and cons of Skinner’s psychological theories as a 17 year old freshman underclassman in Psych 101.
Aside from the lack of suspense and story and an obsessive self-centered brat as a protagonist, there are two things in this book that really bugged me. Both seemed to be throwaway scenes solely meant to further highlight Adriane’s virtuous victimhood, which makes them even more egregiously offensive to me.
The one and only time Adriane thinks she is being baited by the evil future authorities into answering to her real name and thus being instantly “vaporized” is during an early morning breakfast in the cafeteria and the perpetrators are threatening “foreign” young men of color. Why is this xenophobia necessary?
Adriane is incapable of recognizing the feelings of anyone other than herself and her stupidly named obsession, “Wolfman.” (Who refers to a crush by his last name? Repeatedly. And I do mean repeatedly.) Her college roommates are kind and considerate to her, teaching her to type and lending her their clothes and taking care of her while she was sick. But they are all inconsequential to the snotty perpetual victim who will not recognize these lesser scholarship girls as friends. Just the mere presence of her roommates when she wants to be alone to whack her head against the wall in private fills her with disdainful, cruel thoughts against them.
This blind simmering resentment leads us to the inevitable fraternity keg party scene. Adriane reluctantly double dates with her roommate, Betsy, and is smugly “dismayed but not surprised,” to see Betsy drinking heavily, “necking,” and dancing drunkenly, then “disappearing into the crowd.” Adriane’s “not surprised” that the roommate who took care of her when she had the flu is a drunken slut?
As the utterly self-absorbed Adriane supposedly “comforted” vomiting young women in the frat house bathroom, it never crosses her mind that maybe Betsy is vomiting somewhere, too, and needs help. Maybe there’s a line of frat boys forming outside the room where she’s passed out drunk. Adriane saw with her own damning eyes, how drunk Betsy was, and that she had “disappeared”; where did she think Betsy had disappeared to? She didn’t wonder? She didn’t care?
Then: “…I would learn sometime later that the night of the keg party had not been a lucky night for Betsy, who would withdraw from Wainscotia during winter break, and would not return.”
And Adriane’s reaction is “what does it matter if they hate me?” because Betsy is probably dead by now, in the dystopian future. Adriane is a psychopath. She doesn’t think, “Gee, maybe if I had been a better friend to Betsy who had been kind to me when I needed her, I could have gotten her out of that dangerous situation since I knew she was incapacitated and I could have at least tried to find her before I ran away like a coward and ditched her.” No; she muses that Betsy is probably already dead, so whatever.
And what does it mean that the night “had not been lucky” for Betsy and she dropped out of school. What’s the message here? Being raped and impregnated at a frat party is just one of those “unlucky” things that happen to girls who can’t hold their booze or keep their legs closed? Can Oates be that tone deaf? Can any thinking woman?
Come on, in 2019 can we please try to refrain from the gratuitous slut shaming? Maybe this flippant discarding of women and girls’ damaging experiences is one reason why women and girls’ damaging experiences and the women and girls themselves continue to be condemned, disbelieved and dismissed.
I have been a longtime fan of JCO; this reckless handling of sensitive subjects saddens and angers me. I think I’ll re-read “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and obliterate the memory of this waste of a book out of my brain.
One last thing: Adriane went to see the John Wayne movie “Red River,” then on the next page the movie was “The Searchers.” Too bad that was not the worst of it.