Sunday, October 16, 2011

Review: When She Woke

Reminiscent of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, this book describes a world in which women are primarily valued for reproduction, and in which the state has complete oversight over the private activities of individuals. This is a world in which extreme religion runs the government in the name of "morality."

Most important to this story, the government has developed melachroming as a means of punishment; it dyes the skins of criminals according to their crime. Protagonist Hannah Payne has been dyed red after being caught having an illegal abortion. "Chromes," as they are known, are constantly subjected to harassment and vigilante justice. Many do not survive. As Hannah tries to adjust to life as a chrome her world, formerly sheltered, starts to open. She begins to rethink previously held assumptions, as she sees the underside of policies she previously considered humane.

In this novel Jordan has created a world that is frighteningly believable. The book is clearly a statement on the dangers of dissolving the boundaries between church and state, and serves as a reminder of the dangers of a justice system that reverts to arcane methods. Jordan has created The Scarlet Letter for the 21st century. The book is imaginative, frightening, and definitely made me think.

Hillary Jordan, When She Woke (Algonquin, 2011) ISBN: 1565126297

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