The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood (paperback)
By the author of The Handmaid's Tale and Alias Grace:
Stan and Charmaine are a married couple trying to stay afloat in the midst of economic and social collapse. Living in their car, surviving on tips from Charmaine's job at a dive bar, they're increasingly vulnerable to roving gangs and in a rather desperate state. So when they see an advertisement for the Positron Project in the town of Consilience - a 'social experiment' offering stable jobs and a home of their own - they sign up immediately. All they have to do in return for this suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month, swapping their home for a prison cell.
At first, all is well. But slowly, unknown to the other, Stan and Charmaine develop a passionate obsession with their counterparts, the couple that occupy their home when they are in prison. Soon the pressures of conformity, mistrust, guilt and sexual desire take over, and Positron looks less like a prayer answered and more like a chilling prophecy fulfilled.
"Thrilling, sometimes comic, often absurd and entirely engaging, spinning sins into the territory of Elvis-themed escorts, stuffed-animal carnality and customisable sexbots ... What keeps The Heart Goes Last fresh, as with the rest of Atwood's recent work, is that while it revisits earlier themes of her oeuvre, it never replicates. Rather, it reads like an exploration continued, with new surprises, both narratively and thematically, to be discovered ... Margaret Atwood has become something nearly as fantastical as one of her storytelling subjects: a living legend who continues to remain fresh and innovative on the page."
--Mat Johnson, New York Times Book Review
[The Heart Goes Last] affords an arresting perspective on the confluence of information, freedom, and security in the modern age.
--The New Yorker
"At first a classic Atwood dystopia, rationally imagined and developed, [The Heart Goes Last] relaxes suddenly into a kind of surrealist adventure. The satirical impulse foregrounds itself. Narrative drive ramps up ... Atwood allows her sense of the absurd its full elbow room; her cheerfully caustic contempt-bestowed even-handedly on contemporary economics, retro culture, and the social and neurological determination of identity-goes unrestrained ... Jubilant comedy of errors, bizarre bedroom farce, SF prison-break thriller, psychedelic 60s crime caper: The Heart Goes Last scampers in and out of all of these genres, pausing only to quote Milton on the loss of Eden or Shakespeare on weddings. Meanwhile, it performs a hard-eyed autopsy on themes of impersonation and self-impersonation, revealing so many layers of contemporary deception and self-deception that we don't know whether to laugh or cry."