Margaret Atwood is a wonder. She is insightful and extremely knowledgeable, and in In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination she uses her lifelong love of the science fiction genre to explore many facets of SF, including speculative fiction and fantasy since the lines between genres tend to blur and shift.
Since Atwood’s most famous book, The Handmaid’s Tale, is about a future dystopia in which a totalitarian government keeps women in subjugation, it is not surprising that much of the book considers utopias and dystopias such as Brave New World, Animal Farm and 1984.
Atwood also analyzes other themes in science fiction, such as the mad scientist, genetic manipulation, and the role of sex and reproduction, and considers where these themes originated. Her consideration of humankind’s fascination with flight leads to humorous reminiscence about her own earliest writing at around age seven, when she created a race of flying super-rabbits. It goes on to encompass examples that range from Greek mythology to comic book heroes.
Other topics Atwood discusses while writing about the books she has loved include theology, philosophy, and politics, and much, much more.
In addition to discussing themes and their possible origins in classics such as The Island of Doctor Moreau and Gulliver’s Travels, Atwood considers the works of other authors such as Ursula K. LeGuin and H. Rider Haggard. She even includes a fascinating review of Kazuo Ishiguro’s recent Never Let Me Go.
All of this may sound rather dry and even boring, but it is not. Atwood is an excellent writer and she approaches every subject with sly wit and an engaging, clear style that is never pedantic or hard to understand.
This book is a fascinating opportunity to share the thoughts and memories of one of the finest writers of our day and a true champion of the often marginalized fields of science fiction and speculative fiction. It will be a pleasure for any SF fan to read.