A couple of plot twists feel slightly contrived, and some readers might find the book’s ambiguity frustrating, especially regarding the event that led the survivors to their current situation. This mystery is as intriguing as it is challenging, however, and the book’s conclusion leaves open the possibility of a sequel that could contain more answers. Fluid, self-aware prose and sharp characterization keep the reader entranced. The Maenads can seem like caricatures, but when men are introduced, their shortcomings are depicted with equal wryness, and descriptions of their “flat bellies, and heavily muscled glutes, and thighs that led down to wiry calves” subtly parody the male gaze. Every character is both strong and deeply flawed.
Though the novel’s themes resonate with earlier works of feminist science fiction, Moore’s work is unusual in that it critiques misandry as well as misogyny and depicts a world without men as a horror, not a utopia. She deploys vivid descriptions of violence only when absolutely necessary to drive that horror home while implicitly critiquing books that relish violence against women. Dark but with a glimmer of hope, this gripping work earns its place on the shelf of any post-apocalyptic fiction fan.
Takeaway: This bloody post-apocalyptic thriller critiques gender ideology extremes and will fascinate any connoisseur of feminist science fiction.
Great for fans of Elizabeth Hand’s “The Bacchae,” Naomi Alderman, Margaret Atwood.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-