What we're about

We’ll be grabbing brunch/lunch every third or fourth Saturday of the month in the Dr. Phillips area to discuss the book of the month, focusing on the utopias or dystopias described in each book. I will bring a combination of thought-provoking and pop culture-type questions for us to discuss. Each meeting will have a 10 person limit, so keep your RSVP updated. Please do not no-show RSVP, or you will be removed from the group. Thank you for understanding.

I do recommend reading 1984 and/or Brave New World ahead of (or in conjunction with) our group readings because those two books are always brought up in discussions about Utopias and Dystopias.

I also recommend reading along with us, even if you don’t make a few of the meetups, because we will be inevitably be mentioning previous books from this group considering we’re focusing on a specific topic.

Upcoming events (5+)

Utopias and Dystopias: Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

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A Best Science Fiction Book of 2017 -- The Guardian From the widely acclaimed author of The Gone-Away World and Tigerman, comes a virtuosic new novel set in a near-future, high-tech surveillance state, that is equal parts dark comedy, gripping detective story, and mind-bending philosophical puzzle. In the world of Gnomon, citizens are constantly observed and democracy has reached a pinnacle of 'transparency.' Every action is seen, every word is recorded, and the System has access to its citizens' thoughts and memories--all in the name of providing the safest society in history. When suspected dissident Diana Hunter dies in government custody, it marks the first time a citizen has been killed during an interrogation. The System doesn't make mistakes, but something isn't right about the circumstances surrounding Hunter's death. Mielikki Neith, a trusted state inspector and a true believer in the System, is assigned to find out what went wrong. Immersing herself in neural recordings of the interrogation, what she finds isn't Hunter but rather a panorama of characters within Hunter's psyche: a lovelorn financier in Athens who has a mystical experience with a shark; a brilliant alchemist in ancient Carthage confronting the unexpected outcome of her invention; an expat Ethiopian painter in London designing a controversial new video game, and a sociopathic disembodied intelligence from the distant future. Embedded in the memories of these impossible lives lies a code which Neith must decipher to find out what Hunter is hiding. In the static between these stories, Neith begins to catch glimpses of the real Diana Hunter--and, alarmingly, of herself. The staggering consequences of what she finds will reverberate throughout the world. A dazzling, panoramic achievement, and Nick Harkaway's most brilliant work to date, Gnomon is peerless and profound, captivating and irreverent, as it pierces through strata of reality and consciousness, and illuminates how to set a mind free. It is a truly accomplished novel from a mind possessing a matchless wit infused with a deep humanity. Review “ Gnomon is an extraordinary novel, and one I can’t stop thinking about some weeks after I read it. It is deeply troubling, magnificently strange, and an exhilarating read.” —Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven “Opening a novel by Nick Harkaway feels like stepping into a theme park for the mind—every page you turn brings new delights for the mind and the senses. Gnomon is brilliant and terrifying, full of pleasures big and small. Basically, everything I want in a book.” —Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe “The best thing he’s ever written. . . It is an astonishing piece of construction, complex and witty. . . It is a magnificent achievement. . . He’s never written a bad book, but this is the one that’ll see him mentioned in the same breath as William Gibson and David Mitchell. . . This book seriously just destroyed me with joy.” —Warren Ellis, author of Gun Machine “This huge sci-fi detective novel of ideas is so eccentric, so audaciously plotted and so completely labyrinthine and bizarre that I had to put it aside more than once to emit Keanu-like ‘Whoahs’ of appreciation. . . It is huge fun. And it will melt your brain. . . Whoah, indeed. I wanted to give it a round of applause.” —Tim Martin, The Spectator (London) “Beguiling, multilayered, sprawling novel that blends elements of Philip K. Dick-tinged sci-fi, mystery, politics, and literary fiction in a most satisfying brew. . . Fans of Pynchon and William Gibson alike will devour this smart, expertly written bit of literary subversion.” —Kirkus (starred review) About the Author NICK HARKAWAY is the author of three previous novels, The Gone-Away World, Angelmaker, and Tigerman, as well as a nonfiction work about digital culture, The Blind Giant: Being Human in a Digital World. He is also a regular blogger for The Bookseller's FutureBook website. He lives in London with his wife, a human rights lawyer, and their two children.

Utopias and Dystopias: The Power by Naomi Alderman

What would happen if women suddenly possessed a fierce new power? "The Power is our era's The Handmaid's Tale." --Ron Charles, Washington Post **WINNER OF THE BAILEYS WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION** One of the New York Times's Ten Best Books of the Year One of President Obama's favorite reads of the Year A Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year One of the Washington Post's Ten Best Books of the Year An NPR Best Book of the Year One of Entertainment Weekly's Ten Best Books of the Year A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year A Bustle Best Book of the Year A Paste Magazine Best Novel of the Year A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice An Amazon Best Book of the Year "Alderman's writing is beautiful, and her intelligence seems almost limitless. She also has a pitch-dark sense of humor that she wields perfectly." --Michael Schaub, NPR In THE POWER, the world is a recognizable place: there's a rich Nigerian boy who lounges around the family pool; a foster kid whose religious parents hide their true nature; an ambitious American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But then a vital new force takes root and flourishes, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power--they can cause agonizing pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world drastically resets. From award-winning author Naomi Alderman, THE POWER is speculative fiction at its most ambitious and provocative, at once taking us on a thrilling journey to an alternate reality, and exposing our own world in bold and surprising ways. Review Praise for THE POWER: "Electrifying! Shocking! Will knock your socks off! Then you'll think twice, about everything." ―Margaret Atwood "Magnificent. I'm agog. I'm several gogs. Smart and scary and sad but true. It's a classic, in the way that it's hard to imagine it ever wasn't there."―Joss Whedon "Alderman has written our era's Handmaid's Tale, and, like Margaret Atwood's classic, The Power is one of those essential feminist works that terrifies and illuminates, enrages and encourages....This book sparks with such electric satire that you should read it wearing insulated gloves."―Ron Charles, Washington Post "Narratively complex, philosophically searching, and gorgeously rendered."―Lisa Shea, Elle "Fierce and unsettling...Through immersive prose and a riveting plot, Alderman explores how power corrupts everyone: those who gain it, and those resisting its loss."―Radhika Jones, New York Times Book Review "Richly imagined, ambitious, and propulsively written."―Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic "Alderman's writing is beautiful, and her intelligence seems almost limitless. She also has a pitch-dark sense of humor that she wields perfectly."―Michael Schaub, NPR "Alderman's tilted dystopia is a smartly layered place of slippery slopes and moral ambiguities, a fitting folktale for strange times."―Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly "I was riveted by every page. Alderman's prose is immersive and, well, electric, and I felt a closed circuit humming between the book and me as I read."―Amal El-Mohtar, New York Times Book Review "An instant classic of speculative fiction... Smart, readable and joyously achieved." ―Justine Jordan, Guardian About the Author Naomi Alderman is the recipient of the 2017 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction for The Power. She is also the author of The Liars' Gospel and Disobedience, which won the Orange Prize for New Writers, has been published in ten languages, and has been made into a film by Rachel Weisz. Alderman was selected for Granta's once-a-decade list of Best of Young British Novelists and was chosen by Margaret Atwood as part of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. She is the cocreator and lead writer of the bestselling smartphone audio adventure app Zombies, Run! She contributes regularly to The Guardian and presents Science Stories on BBC Radio 4. She lives in London.

Utopias and Dystopias: We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

The exhilarating dystopian novel that inspired George Orwell's 1984 and foreshadowed the worst excesses of Soviet Russia Yevgeny Zamyatin's We is a powerfully inventive vision that has influenced writers from George Orwell to Ayn Rand. In a glass-enclosed city of absolute straight lines, ruled over by the all-powerful 'Benefactor', the citizens of the totalitarian society of OneState live out lives devoid of passion and creativity - until D-503, a mathematician who dreams in numbers, makes a discovery: he has an individual soul. Set in the twenty-sixth century AD, We is the classic dystopian novel and was the forerunner of works such as George Orwell's 1984 and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. It was suppressed for many years in Russia and remains a resounding cry for individual freedom, yet is also a powerful, exciting and vivid work of science fiction. Clarence Brown's brilliant translation is based on the corrected text of the novel, first published in Russia in 1988 after more than sixty years' suppression. Review “[Zamyatin’s] intuitive grasp of the irrational side of totalitarianism—human sacrifice, cruelty as an end in itself—makes [ We] superior to Huxley’s [ Brave New World].”—George Orwell Language Notes Text: English (translation) Original Language: Russian About the Author Yevgeny Ivanovich Zamyatin [masked]) was a naval architect by profession and a writer by nature. His favorite idea was the absolute freedom of the human personality to create, to imagine, to love, to make mistakes, and to change the world. This made him a highly inconvenient citizen of two despotisms, the tsarist and the Communist, both of which exiled him, the first for a year, the latter forever. He wrote short stories, plays, and essays, but his masterpiece is We, written in[masked] and soon thereafter translated into most of the languages of the world. It first appeared in Russia only in 1988. It is the archetype of the modern dystopia, or anti-utopia; a great prose poem on the fate that might befall all of us if we surrender our individual selves to some collective dream of technology and fail in the vigilance that is the price of freedom. George Orwell, the author of 1984, acknowledged his debt to Zamyatin. The other great English dystopia of our time, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, was evidently written out of the same impulse, though without direct knowledge of Zamyatin’s We.

Utopias and Dystopias: Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Handmaid's Tale Oryx and Crake is at once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future. Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride. Margaret Atwood projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and beyond our imagining. Review “Towering and intrepid. . . . Atwood does Orwell one better.” — The New Yorker “Atwood has long since established herself as one of the best writers in English today, but Oryx and Crake may well be her best work yet. . . . Brilliant, provocative, sumptuous and downright terrifying.” — The Baltimore Sun “Her shuddering post-apocalyptic vision of the world . . . summons up echoes of George Orwell, Anthony Burgess and Aldous Huxley. . . . Oryx and Crake [is] in the forefront of visionary fiction.” — The Seattle Times “A book too marvelous to miss.” — The San Diego Union-Tribune “Majestic. . . . Keeps us on the edges of our seats.” — The Washington Post “A compelling futuristic vision. . . . Oryx and Crake carries itself with a refreshing lightness. . . . Its shrewd pacing neatly balances action and exposition. . . . What gives the book a deeper resonance is its humanity.” – Newsday “[A] stunning new novel–possibly her best since The Handmaid’s Tale.” – Time Out New York “A delightful amalgam for the sophisticated reader: her perfectly placed prose, poetic language and tongue-in-cheek tone are ubiquitous throughout, as if an enchanted nanny is telling one a dark bedtime story of alienation and ruin while lovingly stroking one’s head.” – Ms. “Truly remarkable. . . . As fun as it is dark. . . . A feast of realism, science fiction, satire, elegy and then some. . . . Atwood has concocted here an all-too-possible vision. . . . [She is] a master.” – The News & Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina) “A roll of dry, black, parodic laughter. . . . One of the year’s most surprising novels.” – The Economist “Sublime. . . . Good, solid, Swiftian science fiction from a . . . literary artist par excellence.” – The Denver Post “Dances with energy and sophisticated gallows humor. . . . [Atwood’s] wry wit makes dystopia fun.” – People “A crackling read. . . . Atwood is one of the most impressively ambitious writers of our time.” – The Guardian “Gorgeously written, full of eyeball-smacking images and riveting social and scientific commentary. . . . A cunning and engrossing book by one of the great masters of the form.” – The Buffalo News “A powerful vision. . . . Very readable.” – The New York Times Book Review “Brilliant, impossible to put down. . . . Atwood . . . is at once commanding and enchanting. Piercingly intelligent and piquantly witty, highly imaginative and unfailingly compassionate, she is a spoonful-of-sugar storyteller, concealing the strong and necessary medicine of her stinging social commentary within the balm of dazzlingly complicated and compelling characters and intricate and involving predicaments.” – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution “Original and chilling. . . . Powerful, inventive, playful and difficult to resist.” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette “Brilliantly constructed. . . . Jimmy and Crake grip like characters out of Greek tragedy. . . . Atwood herself is one of our finest linguistic engineers. Her carefully calibrated sentences are formulated to hook and paralyse the reader.” – The Daily Telegraph “Atwood does not disappoint.” – The Dallas Morning News “Gripping. . . . Bursts with invention and mordant wit, none of which slows down its headlong pace. . . . Atwood is in sleek form. . . . [Her] prescience is unsettling.” – St. Petersburg Times “Biting, black humor and absorbing storytelling. . . . Atwood entices.” – USA Today “Compelling. . . . Packed with fascinating ideas. . . . Her most accessible book in years, a gripping, unadorned story.” – The Onion “This superlatively gripping and remarkably imagined book joins The Handmaid’s Tale in the distinguished company of novels ( The Time Machine, Brave New World and 1984) that look ahead to warn us about the results of human shortsightedness.” – The Times (London) “Absorbing. . . . Atwood ahs not lost her touch for following the darker paths of speculative fiction–she easily creates a believable, contained future world.” – Seattle Weekly “Engrossing. . . . A novel of ideas, narrated with an almost scientific dispassion and a caustic, distanced humor. The prose is fast and clean.” – Rocky Mountain News “Riveting and thought-provoking. . . . Keen and cutting. . . . [Atwood] has grown into one of the most consistently imaginative and masterful fiction writers writing in English today.” – Richmond Times-Dispatch From the Inside Flap With the same stunning blend of prophecy and social satire she brought to her classic The Handmaid’s Tale , Margaret Atwood gives us a keenly prescient novel about the future of humanity—and its present. Humanity here equals Snowman, and in Snowman’s recollections Atwood re-creates a time much like our own, when a boy named Jimmy loved an elusive, damaged girl called Oryx and a sardonic genius called Crake. But now Snowman is alone, and as we learn why we also learn about a world that could become ours one day. About the Author Margaret Atwood, whose work has been published in thirty-five countries, is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale, her novels include Cat’s Eye, short-listed for the Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; Oryx and Crake, short-listed for the 2003 Man Booker Prize; and The Year of the Flood. She is the recipient of the Los Angeles Times Innovator’s Award, and lives in Toronto with the writer Graeme Gibson.

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