23 thoughts on “Observations and Reflections on Reviews of Science Fiction Novels

  1. Pingback: English 39006: Science Fiction, Fall 2018 – Renata Kobetts Miller, Ph.D.

  2. Nick Calderon

    Work Cited

    Scott, Walter. “Remarks on Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus; a Novel.” Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine 2 (1818): 613-20.

    The major cruxes of Mr. Scott’s assessment revolves around three intersecting thoughts he empathizes throughout the piece: what type of subcategory of fiction Frankenstein belongs to, who wrote Frankenstein, and the writing/execution, according to him, of the story.
    The least surprising of the three is concerning who wrote Frankenstein. It is assumed assuredly that a man has written it, as was customary of the time. Mr. Scott, however, stresses his belief that Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley’s husband, is the writer; a fact that surprised me. What I find most interesting on this branch of his review, is that he is glad to see Percy moving on to higher things than just being primarily a poet. Was poetry seen as lesser in this time? It could even hint at Percy not being as popular in his time as he became subsequently.
    Mr. Scott finds the writing effective and overall the story is well-written except for one or two gripes he has with the Monster’s narrative. Hilariously, he finds Shelley’s language plain; from our vantage point in the future, it is incredibly poetic, expressive and melodramatic, as befitting the Gothic style that it stems from—and remains assessable even now. Hardly plain.
    The best parts are him trying to categorize Frankenstein and differentiating it from other fantastical stories or fiction. He believes Frankenstein engages the mind and makes us question how we would respond in similar situations, unlike other stories he mentions that solely rely on the fantastical as the whole premise or gimmick of their story.

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  3. Stephanie Gaitan

    “The Edinburgh Magazine and Literary Miscellany: A New Series of ‘The Scots Magazine.’” Romantic Circles, Romantic Circles, 1 Mar. 1998, http://www.rc.umd.edu/reference/chronologies/mschronology/reviews/emrev.html.

    This reviewer enjoyed Frankenstein, though had his criticisms. He recognizes Shelley’s ability in blending the fantastical with reality. He says, “never was a wilder story imagined. . . it has an air of reality attached to it.” He summarizes the major plot points in the novel including Victor’s malady as well as the murder of his brother, and the monster’s threat. Lastly, he reflects. He states that Frankenstein must be a debut. Specifically, “there is much power and beauty, both of thought and expression, though. . .the execution is imperfect, and bearing the marks of an unpracticed hand.” Regarding the subject of Frankenstein – a living being resurrected by human hands– he declares it as “monstrous.” He states, “All these monstrous conceptions are the consequences of the wild and irregular theories of the age.” The age, being the Victorian Age: a time when science or natural philosophy was emerging as a professional field. We’ve defined ‘science-fiction’ as something that surpasses the limitations of reality and suspends our disbelief by the use science – Darko Suvin’s ‘novum.’ Science-fiction thrusts us into an eerie world of possibilities. The reviewer is intimidated by these possibilities and states that Shelley – anonymous at the time – should continue writing but of a different subject matter. He says, “they would make a great improvement in their writings, if they would rather study the established order of nature as it appears, both in the world of matter and of mind, than continue to revolt our feelings by hazardous innovations in either of these departments.” A fear of the unknown, of what science can do, unsettled this reviewer.

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  4. Malika Knight

    “Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheans.” British Newspaper Archive. London, Lackington,
    01 March 1818. Web. 11 September 2018

    In a review of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, Frankenstein, the writer of the article was not amused by the manipulation of natural laws. They begin by stating that her debut work was the “highest style of caricature and exaggeration” (219) in the modern era. It was soon asserted that, entertaining the supernatural was becoming so common that even inventors were interested. In the writer’s view, society was so enamored by unrealistic stories, it was as if this category of fiction was the only one desired.
    Printed three months after Shelly’s text, there is a clear condescending tone. The critic seems to be fascinated by the 18-year old’s work. Although, insist that the strides and innovations succeed by the young lady are blasphemous. Furthermore, he references Shakespeare as a standard of how extreme a novelist should stretch their bounds if they desire to be tolerable.
    One opinion of the writer that reflects its proximity to the original publication is the perspective on length. The critic states, “it is somewhat too long, grave, and laborious,” (253). As a first-time reader 200 years later – which includes a vast amount of media adaptions – the text did not have that impression. It was adventurous and satisfying to experience the original tale of this infamous monster. However, with an objective mind, it can be seen as toilsome. With its overlapping frames and repetition of inner-thoughts, the ultimate resolution was tedious to reach.

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  5. Cassiady Perard

    Works Cited
    “The One Shilling Editions of Jules Verne’s Works .” Derby Daily Telegraph, 6 July 1887, p. 4. British Newspaper Archive, http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000327/18870706/079/0004.

    In a compilation of reviews from The Times, The Morning Post, and Standard, critics have nothing but glowing reviews for Jules Verne’s thrilling 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. However, something that stood out was that many reviews put an exaggerated emphasis on how many boys will enjoy this book, or at least makes sure to mention them as a key demographic. Given the fact that this book is seen as fast paced and filled with adventure, critics also seem to assume that many other demographics would not be interested the way that boys would be, and even adds a nostalgic tone to their review. “Boys will be delighted with this wild story through which scientific truth and most frantic fiction walk cheek by jowl…….It is an excellent boy’s book. We devoutly wish we were a boy to enjoy it,” said The Times. The Standard said, “If this book does not ‘go’, boys are no longer boys…Grave men will be equally borne along in the grasp of the accomplished author.” Neither of these reviews make any mention of women or girls or whether they’d like such a thrilling book. All the same, the book was well beloved at the time and was lauded for its gripping adventure and premise.

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  6. Judy Dong

    Monsters Manufactured

    Works Cited

    “The Island of Dr. Moreau.” New York Times. August 16, 1896.
    https://search-proquest-com.ccny-proxy1.libr.ccny.cuny.edu/docview/95451476?accountid=9967

    When one first starts reading H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, one can’t help but feel uncomfortable with the increased mention of the distortion present in the faces and bodies of characters like M’ling and the other Beast Folk. The New York Times review that was published shortly after the release of the book admits that “one finds himself in doubt about the author’s purpose” (1896). One immediately jumps to the possibility of racial insinuations when initially reading about the “amazingly ugly gang” (Wells 17). However, that is where the magic of H.G. Wells’ craft lies. He keeps readers suspended in doubt, discomfort and dread as he slowly peels back the shroud that he’s covered this remote island with. There is a subtly sinister undercurrent that courses throughout the veins of this story: “the two inconsistent and conflicting impressions of utter strangeness and yet of the strangest familiarity” (Wells 27). As Wells reveals more about Dr. Moreau and his dastardly vivisections to the readers through the eyes and thoughts of Prendick, readers are forced to constantly grapple with the morality and humanity of each creature they stumble upon — with Wells injecting curious paranoia in one’s active consciousness with the occasional splash of dark humor.
    However, one could argue against the New York Times review’s assertion that “the Island of Dr. Moreau is reminiscent of Frankenstein” (1896). While they both center on mad scientists who recreate the image of man, one severely regrets it immediately after its creation while the other has an incessant passion — almost lust — for playing God: “After all, what is ten years [of creation]? Men have been a hundred thousand in the making” (Wells 52).

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  7. Tanisah Delvaille

    Works Cited
    Review of H G Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau, from The Saturday Review, by P. Chalmers Mitchell.

    At the start of this review Mitchell praises Wells because of his earlier work and is excited to read The Island of Dr. Moreau, but when he does read ii he is greatly disappointed. He complains by saying, “Wells has put out his talent to the most flagitious usury”. Meaning he disapproves of this story. Mitchell, also feels as if Well’s, “has spoiled a fine conception by greed of cheap horrors”. Meaning Wells’s over uses the blood and horror in this book, which then makes the story lack any type of art. He would prefer that Wells, “Return to his sane transformations of the dull conceptions of science into the living and magical beauty he has already given us”.
    Mitchell does however agree with the science of the story to some point, he agrees that, “there is scientific basis enough to form the plot of a story”. Mitchell does however refute Wells’s claim that, “the manufacture of monsters – and perhaps even quasi-human monsters – is within the possibilities of vivisection”. Mitchell states, “you can transfuse blood to combine living material from different animals fail”.

    I agree with Mitchell in terms of the over use of blood and horror as I feel like it focuses more on these aspects rather than the scientific aspects that are known of Wells, but we do get to see the scientific parts of the novel since it does focus on the study of the human condition and the combination of animals with these humans.

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  8. Grace Ronan

    This review from the New York Times gives high praise all around for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. The novel’s cast of “caricatures” are judged delightfully tongue-and-cheek, and Doyle’s imaginative landscape “–weird and amazing–” is flatteringly compared to those of Rider Haggard, a popular adventure novelist of the time. More than these components, however, the reviewer has focused with particular excitement on the plausibility of the science behind the invented island of lost evolutionary wonders, found at last: “the author’s passion for detail…together with his exact scientific knowledge, make it seem not only possible but perfectly real.” If this reviewer is an appropriate representation of general feeling, then it should be noted that the public at this time seems to have a thorough interest and investment in the workings of the scientific world. Readers are totally thrilled by the reanimation of dusty museum skeletons through fiction, every bit as enraptured as the fictional scientists eagerly classifying the flora and fauna they encounter on their Jurassic journey.
    The reviewer further notes that the admired scientific plausibility is even more striking when compared to the “broad and humorous caricature” of the adventurers, a contrast of realism so conspicuous that Doyle is said to have undoubtedly written “with the satiric mood strong upon him.” What follows is perhaps the only critique of the reviewer: that Challenger himself is too much caricature, too little character. But while he may be no Sherlock, he certainly is amusing.

    Review Source:
    George H. Doran Company. “Conan Doyle’s Story of Pterodactyls, Iguanodons, Dinosaurs, and Missing Links.” The New York Times, 13 Oct. 1912, p. 34.

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  9. Caitlyn Karagiannopoulos

    The article I found was called “Conan Doyle’s Story: Of Pterodactyls, Iguanodons, Dinosaurs, and Missing Links” written in the New York Times which was published October 13, 1912. The author analyzes his/her curiosity on what made Doyle write such a novel. At the beginning of the article, the author starts with questions. Similarly, I was thinking the same when I was reading the book. He/she also explains how the book seems more realistic than fiction with Doyle’s details. Stated in the article “The author’s passion for detail, and his skill in handling it together with his exact scientific knowledge, make it all seem not only possible but perfectly real.” I agree with this. Doyle’s use of detail helps the reader, including myself, visualize the entire book and stay engaged. The author continues on explaining the characters in the book. The scientists supposedly come off as humorous according to the author. I did get a sense of that while reading. The author describes the explorer Lord John Roxton as a tag along on the expedition due to his satisfaction of hunting beasts he can eat with a quote to back him up which states “this huntin’ of beasts that look like lobster supper dream promises a brand-new sensation”. Overall, I believe the author’s intentions weren’t to criticize Doyle, just to inform the reader what to look forward to and expressing his/her feelings on the novel- which seems he/she enjoyed it.

    https://search-proquest-com.ccny-proxy1.libr.ccny.cuny.edu/docview/97340209?accountid=9967&rfr_id=info%3Axri%2Fsid%3Aprimo

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  10. Mahira Hasan

    Mahira Hasan

    With science fiction works like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, it is important to understand how the novel was perceived during the time of its publication. This novel was published in French in 1870 and then in English in 1872. Since then, it was evident that this novel sparked reader’s minds and influenced work on submarines as shown in newspaper articles years after the novel’s publication. Many science fiction works allowed for further research in the sciences as this new medium that was growing in validity and popularity. Eventually science was not only reserved as a hobby for those who had the time and money but for those who could now go to school and study it to be a professional. The rise of careers in the sciences was influenced by novels like these.
    According to the first page of The Liverpool Mercury’s February 10th, 1890 issue, Verne’s novel was instrumental in inspiring scientists to look into real life implications of his works. Novels like his inspired the minds of scientists to attempt to disprove his inventions/ideas or prove the plausibility of them. This article touches upon the work of a scientist named Goubet who was intrigued by Verne’s description of the Nautilus. He created a vessel modeled after it and it has so far been successful in the tests run with it. This proves that novels that are fictional like Vernes’ have a positive impact on science and the growth of technology.

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  11. Justica Laureano

    “CONAN DOYLE’S STORY.” New York Times (1857-1922), Oct 13, 1912, pp. 1. ProQuest, https://search-proquest-com.ccny-proxy1.libr.ccny.cuny.edu/docview/97340209?accountid=9967.

    CONAN DOYLE’S STORY: Of Pterodactyls, Iguanodons, Dinosaurs, and Missing Links THE LOST WORLD.

    In this articles of the New York Times, the reviewer is admiring Arthur Conan Doyle’s passion and details. The review applause Doyle for having made the novel appear to be real and convincing. the scientific knowledge Doyle includes in his novel makes it seem possible for his story to come to life. The reviewer interprets Doyle’s mood, he calls it a satiric mood. He believes Doyle satirizes the fiction of adventure and refers to the ladydom as delicious and ironic. I find that to be an interesting comment because it makes me believe that the romantic quest in this novel is a joke. He goes on this quest to be the man she made him believe he needed to be, when he gets back he looks to marry her only to find out she’s already married and to a man that is the man he was. Which in a way causes me to agree that the ladydom is delicious and ironic. But I don’t know that I would call it ladydom, it implies that all women are this way.

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  12. Works Cited

    Wells, Simon. “Old Father Time: HG Wells’s Novel the Time Machine.” Guardian. [London, England] 31 May 2002: 2. Business Insights: Global. Web. 11 Nov. 2018.

    The Time Machine by H.G. Wells is a work of fantastical fiction. This is not to say that it holds no inherent value, but it is simply a work of science fiction. The Traveller, as it were, the protagonist and main subject of the narrator is a fanciful man given to describing his own adventures in a grandiose fashion that, while understandable to the layman, it leaves much to be desired. There are no detailed descriptions of his efforts, it is an effort to push the reader into a state of wonderment towards the inventive albeit entertaining fantasies of the author. Understandably, this is a work of fiction, and it is acceptable at what it does, however can this be called a grand display of literature? One would say it is not. Instead, it lacks a certain depth of feeling that should be present to truly transport the audience into the future realm, through the millennia with the Time Traveller. In summary, the novel is worth reading for the average man in need of a passing source of entertainment, but if asked if it truly qualifies as a standup piece of literature, the opinion can be formed that this work is lacking in substance.

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  13. thetipsiegypsie

    Work Cited:

    Heinemann, Wm. “Nature.” Review of The Time Machine. Nature, vol. 52, no. 1342, 18 July 1895.

    In the article that I have found, published in Nature: A Weekly Illustrated Journal of Science on July 18, 1895, the writer, besides finding the work as “a clever piece of imagination,” finds relevance for any scientific reader. The writer of the review enjoyed the book as he states that the “narrative never lapses into dullness,” but what seems to be his main concern is the scientific plausibility of a time machine and the “realism” of the settings created by Wells. This makes sense of course as it is a scientific journal and those reading the article are very likely to be interested in the technical details.

    Upon research the fourth dimension, used as a rationalization for the time machine, was an idea that was written about in a publication in Nature about ten years prior, written anonymously by “S.” The third dimension is of course how we recognize the world through our eyes using three axes to move in our perception of space. The fourth dimension adds time as the 4th axis. There are a lot of cool theories and rich, complex geometrical shapes attached to the fourth dimension, the easiest for a layperson to understand being the tesseract. (look it up SUPER COOL)

    I understand that Wells’ main motivation for writing the narrative was not the theoretical scientific progress in the late 1800’s; but as a reader that enjoys seeing fantasy grounded heavily in reality (I am thinking specifically of A song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin) I can fully understand the excitement the writer has for the science behind the fiction.

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  14. Alexandra Kononenko

    Citation: Sawyer, Robert J. “Book Review.” The Globe and Mail, Apr. 1991.
    The review that I found was for The Globe and Mail newspaper of Canada by Robert J sawyer written in 1991. Mostly, Sawyer comments on the novels’ alternative historical nature and its broken plot lines. He states that “The book’s plot, of which there’s surprisingly little, is muddled, but then this is not a story about getting from point A to point B. Rather, it’s an immersion in a fascinating, wholly realized milieu.” He also states that the book is a challenge and that it assumes some knowledge of Victorian history in the reader, which can otherwise be made up for by intermittently referencing an encyclopedia. Finally, he comments that the additional historical content added in the back of the book in reference to the fictional history presented would have served the novel better if it was woven into the actual plot.
    In reading the novel myself, I can agree with Sawyer’s observations regarding the plot. Having little knowledge of Victorian history, keeping up with the alternative all while trying to follow the plot was a definite challenge. I figured this out during our previous class period when we discussed how the real historical events were interwoven into the book – I was shocked to find things I thought fictional to be nonfictional and vice versa. Considering the scope of this novel, it is hard to imagine the most effective way to present so much information – alternative and not.

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  15. Alejandra Gomez

    Burd, Gene. “Utopian Studies .” Review of Nicholas Ruddick, Ed. The Time Machine: An Invention by H.G. Wells (1895). Utopian Studies , vol. 12, no. 2, 2001, pp. 371–373.

    The novel developed over seven and a half years, through five printed versions which by 1895, Burd said resulted in “the product of a long and different refining process with few parallels in literary history”. At the time the book came out people thought he was “a man of genius” with “an imagination as gruesome as Edgar Allan Poe’s.” The book is based on the “insecurity of progress and the possibility of human degeneration and extinction”. The time traveler is constantly describing and mentioning how humans have become illiterate over time and develop a limited vocabulary. Burd added that the novel has a grim vision forecasting the year A.D. 802,701 and the deficiencies of society when “its strong basis in evolutionary biology suggests that the Utopian dream of a conflict-free, perfect social life is a dangerous illusion.” Through the review and the novel I noticed Wells took the concept of social Darwinism, which was a popular topic at the time, to a whole new level by creating a future of different classes of society who have become an entirely different species from modern-day humans. And through that concept of evolution, the differences between the Morlocks and the Eloi were magnified ten-fold. Burd ends the review by saying that Wells thought the future was the “sunset for mankind”, or the end so to speak, despite “the comfort, perfect harmony, and controlled population”, which is exactly how the time traveler felt after having been in the future and discovering the Morlocks and the Eloi, and their literal division of underground and above-ground.

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  16. Megan Govin

    “Reviews.” Pall Mall Gazette, 10 Sept. 1895, pp. 4–4.

    This review of The Time Machine from the Pall Mall Gazette, in 1895, discusses H.G. Wells’ theories about the future, the writing itself, and the plot of the book. The review described The Time Machine as a scientific romance and praised Wells’ effort to create an honest depiction of the future. It concluded that, while the outlook was not reassuring, the background was solid, saying the story followed a “faithful adherence to scientific principles.” The reviewer agreed that the peak of humanity would not be permanent as others believed, and that Wells was correct in writing that after the millennium, society would meet with some form of catastrophe. Only one flaw with The Time Machine was mentioned in the review. It was the possibility that in the future, there would be no need for any humans to be involved in the process of production, making the fate of the Morlocks unnecessary.
    In terms of the writing, as well, the review was overwhelmingly positive. It described Wells as a “writer of the highest talent” and said that he was “more likely to make a reputation than any young writer of his standing.”
    Overall, from this review, it seems that the book was well received. It made me wonder, however, if it caused a stir amongst people who believed that humanity would reach its peak and plateau there, rather than falling into a divided, doomed society. Regardless, the quality of the writing seemed to be respected, and Wells’ imagination and creation of the plot were given high praise.

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  17. Tiffany Chan

    Disch, Thomas. “Queen Victoria’s Computers.” New York Times (1991).

    This review begins with a list of historical events found in The Difference Engine. The reviewer also tells us the parts of history that was altered, such as Lord Byron’s life and Babbage’s analytical Engine coming to life. The reviewer praises the book by saying that the, “historical, cultural, and scientific repercussions are enormous, as they have been in our own time, and the resulting counter-Victorian era is elaborated with a Dickensian density of imaginative detail.” He also related the rioting to Dicken’s “Barnaby Rudge.”
    The only part of the book the reviewer was disappointed in was when the plot shifted to detective Laurence Oliphant. He felt that the mystery of the MacGuffin wasn’t that mysterious.
    The reviewer thought the “montage of pseudohistorical texts and vignettes,” in the last chapter gave more information about the world they built, instead of the authors deciding to conclude the story. “It’s as if the authors had come right out and said their story was just a pretext for the real science-fictional excitement of building new worlds. The history of it is breathtaking.”
    Overall, the reviewer admired the way the authors used accurate information from the past to form the historical and scientific context of the book. He went as far as to say that The Difference Engine was better than their solo individual works.

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  18. Candice Coote

    Citation: Bernikow, Louise. “Women Sans Men”. The New York Times, Apr. 8, 1979
    https://search-proquest-com.ccny-proxy1.libr.ccny.cuny.edu/docview/120875629/65C5E08CEAE54880PQ/2?accountid=9967
    Unknown Author. “The Forerunner”. The Irish Citizen, Sep. 18, 1915

    After looking for some time, the only review I could find of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland comes from 1979. The only mention of the novel from 1915 (or around then) from what I can tell, was one mention of the title of the book in The Irish Citizen (Sep. 18,1915) mentioning The Forerunner which is where Herland was published at the time as a serial.
    To put that into perspective, the end of this 1979 review is a prayer to rescue the book from its “long oblivion.” Bernikow brings up interesting points on the inspiration for this story, stating that “[m]ore than 60 years ago Gilman saw the ways in which domestic life devastates women. She set herself squarely against Marx in imaging what kind of revolution would make the world safe for everyone. ‘Herland’ incorporates that vision and dresses it up as entertainment.” The reviewer finds the novel funny with wittiness that sets it apart from traditions of other Utopian texts. Bernikow also calls the novel a “sentimental education” that follows the narrator’s ability to “understand and feel differently about women and about himself.” This is something that I also picked up on and I was happy to see that the reviewer had the same line of thinking as me when she pointed out that the novel is told in “mirrors” with the men’s views on women set against the women’s reality. Bernikow calls this an “old clown trick” that is put to good use and remarks on how the drama of the novel comes from “what is seen, blocked, [and] distorted.” This review seems overall favorable of the book and interested in the many themes and aspects of womanhood the book presents that are different from the present’s. It gave me more to think about.

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  19. Saba Hanif

    “The Handmaids Tale” by Margaret Atwood is about Offred who a Handmaids in the Republic of Gilead is who is a totalitarian that has been replaced the United States of America. Handmaids were those women who were assigned to bear children for those couples who were having trouble conceiving since there were low reproduction rates. The handmaid’s tale that was offered by the publisher was seen as a “forecast”, as to what might happen in the futures. The writer also mentions that our country will be ruled by right wingers and religious fundamentalists. The males will play their traditional roles and the females will be “placed” as wives, breeders and servants.

    ”The Handmaid’s Tale” is a woman’s world, even though it is governed by men.
    The author Margaret Atwood draws her attention to the current trends that were going on during that time period. As the writer of this review says, ”The Handmaid’s Tale”, is undistinguished in a double sense. ordinary if not glaringly so, but also indistinguishable from what one supposes would be Margaret Atwood’s normal way of expressing herself in the circumstances. In “The Handmaids Tale” was based on what was happening in the United States and Margaret Atwood used that to express it in her novel.

    McCarthy, Mary. “Book Review.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 9 Feb. 1986, archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/00/03/26/specials/mccarthy-atwood.html?module=inline.

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  20. Jennifer Chang

    McCarthy, Mary. “Book Review.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 9 Feb. 1986, archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/00/03/26/specials/mccarthy-atwood.html.

    This review in the NYT is immensely critical of Atwood’s novel. Drawing comparisons to its predecessors — 1984, Brave New World, and A Clockwork Orange — McCarthy criticizes nearly every aspect of The Handmaid’s Tale. McCarthy says that, not only does she not see how the trends at the time in the U.S. could lead to the world imagined in Atwood’s novel, she is also turned off by the “excessive feminism” displayed in the novel by Offred’s mother and believes that the world in the novel is, although governed and policed by men, a “woman’s world.” She compares the world of The Handmaid’s Tale to that of 1984, stating that it is unrealistic; she cannot imagine the Aunts in any future, whereas she can imagine Big Brother happening. She also criticizes the lack of satiric humor and a “new language” in the novel, again comparing it to 1984, with its newspeak and The Handmaid’s Tale lack thereof.

    I completely disagree with McCarthy’s points. I believe she was entirely too critical of the novel and constantly thought about it in comparison to other novels, rather than as its own standalone nightmare of a future. The novel, in my opinion, paints an image of a very dark future, one that Atwood has beautifully drawn out. There does not need to be a new “common language” spoken in order to write about a dystopian future, although this novel does have the semblance of one with how the Handmaids are only allowed certain phrases with each other. The people in Gilead are also forbidden from using archaic language. The world is not a “woman’s world,” as McCarthy stated, since the majority of the women in the novel do not have rights, are reduced to just a vessel for insemination, or are to work traditionally “female” roles. The men in the novel govern and police, so I personally cannot understand how it could be a woman’s world just because some of the women have power. I believe that this reviewer went into this book with a lot of preconceived notions of what a dystopian novel should be. Atwood builds a frightening dark world that, contrary to McCarthy’s view, is a “nobody’s world,” except for those in power.

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  21. Danielle Bonet

    Work cited
    McCarthy, Mary. Book Review. 9 Feb. 1986, archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/00/03/26/specials/mccarthy-atwood.html?module=inline.
    Nicolaou, Elena. “You Won’t Believe This OG Book Review Of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’” The Original Book Review Of The Handmaid’s Tale Got It SO Crazy Wrong, Refinery29, 17 May 2017, http://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2017/05/154866/handmaids-tale-hulu-timing-review-mary-mccarthy.

    When looking towards the reception of Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale today, we find that overall to be positive as for many could be seen as a glance into our future could be like if certain charges aren’t made. With an award-winning Hulu adaption and a sequel to the novel on it’s way one would imagine that most reviews to be rather positive when it first released. But when looking towards the NYtimes review by Mary McCarthy you notice that unlike today much of the issues she had with was that she couldn’t see anything that happen within the novel actually happened any time soon.
    She mentions within her review that she found novel’s such as 1984 by George Orwell, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley seem to have more of an effect when installing the fear that she felt was missing within The Handmaid’s Tale. Which considering the time that she was writing this review it’s not surprising considering that many of the reasons that people today feel like that the novel is not only shocking but as well as a cautionary tale of what our chose could lead to if we aren’t careful. Which when looking at things were in the late 80s/early 90s it just seems that there were other things that held to a much more importance in the sense of what was present in the case of factor that were causing our country and other places in the world fear.
    Even with the disease that are stated to have been the main reason for which this whole society has happen and the decline within didn’t seem to put in the way of fear at least to her. Which in somes ways is kinda supring seeing as how by this point in time, the AIDs epidemic was still at a high point as they were only a few years into it ( at least occurring to the timeline I found at https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/history/hiv-and-aids-timeline) didn’t seem to really present fear to her. Just the idea that certain diseases, which at the time was not only killing so many people but as well had little to knowledge to it, didn’t seem to present much fear her, unlike how many other people felt during this time is in many ways pretty surprising. Though in her review, the one of the reason this doesn’t work for her is to the fact that this and much of the other elements use throughout the story, “the author has carefully drawn her projections from current trends. As she has said elsewhere, there is nothing here that has not been anticipated in the United States of America that we already know.” With most science fiction something the unknown, the unpredictable can be the most frighten thing especially if there is a slight possibly it may happen but in the case of The Handmaid’s Tale during its original I could see why that didn’t work here.
    But with this point I could see with everything going on today and how popular the book has become why some would not agree with what McCarthy has to say, so it in many way it came as no surprise that when looking for reviews on The Handmaid’s Tale, not only did I find McCarthy’s but as well I also discovered an article from refienery29.com by Elena Nicolaou who felt that McCarthy got it wrong when looking at the novel as a whole. That McCarthy missed the point by not looking at the women’s place within a dystopian society. She states at one point in her article “Since 1984 and Brave New World build societies around two fairly universal human inclinations, fear and pleasure, McCarthy deems them feasible (and horrifying) futures. But women’s rights being dismantled by conservative government? Not so much of a possibility to her.” To be fair maybe I’m missing something but I would assume that compared to how things are going today, the idea of this dystopian society was less likely in fear of coming true. Unlike today when the climate of such topics are much extermin then they were back it gives us more of a reason to fear this all happening if we aren’t careful with our chooses. With such things as the MeToo movement begin so present in our society today, it no surprising how much such a novel could affect people.
    There are other place in the world who probably more closer than us to truly becoming much the society within The Handmaid’s Tale. Then again who knows, while the novel is set in what is supposed to an indeterminate future though some have speculated, in the past, that the novel is set in 2005 (unlike the show as when looked into is supposed to be set today or at least 2016 when the show first premiered).Which in 2018 has clearly come and gone with none of this actually occurring. But then again who knows what could happen in our near future.

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  22. Natalia Caballero

    The Handmaid’s Tale Review from The New York Times

    I found a review from The New York Times by Mary Mccarthy written on February 9, 1986. She starts off the review by writing, “We are warned, by seeing our present selves in a distorting mirror, of what we may be turning into if current trends are allowed to continue.” I’m assuming what Mccarthy meant by this statement is the infertility problem and the overall control and how women gets turned into slaves by the government in Gilead. The infertility was caused by pollution, as written in the text, ”The air got too full, once, of chemicals, rays, radiation, the water swarmed with toxic molecules.” If pollution continues in the real world Mccarthy fears infertility or diseases might spring up because of that. She further explains her thought of how The Handmaid’s tale is a ‘forecast’ of what we may have in store in the future. She then writes, “our own country will be ruled by right-wingers and religious fundamentalists, with males restored to the traditional role of warriors and us females to our ”place” – which, however, will have undergone subdivision into separate sectors, of wives, breeders, servants and so forth, each clothed in the appropriate uniform.” I find it interesting that the dystopian society of Gilead was perceived in 1986, a year after the book was first published, as a warning of what might happen in the future if we don’t be careful. Yet today the book is perceived as a work of science fiction and not a warning of the future at all. She then writes that she thinks since Atwood didn’t create a language for the story and that it lacks personality. “…a future that has no language invented for it lacks a personality. That must be why, collectively, it is powerless to scare.” I disagree with Mccarthy because I think there is no need of an invented language in Gilead. The circumstances already makes it scary enough to think about.
    https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/00/03/26/specials/mccarthy-atwood.html?module=inline

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