Red Clocks – Leni Zumas

I find the epitaph ‘ripped from the headlines’ to not usually be a sign of a quality. Usually. Frankly, it rings of memories of the shoddy craftsmanship of TV series than need to pound out an episode the week with all the grace of anyone who is working on a Fordist industrial line. It very rarely speaks to quality. But over the past few years it has seemed that life has began to model itself after our fiction, and not the other way around. That was the unfortunate case here.

I pulled this off of a list of dystopian fiction, and just assumed it would be more science-fiction than merely speculative (by my uses of those words). No, this book is in the realm of largely ordinary fiction, where a United States is principally like our own, except the government had a conservative push-back and managed to ban all forms of abortion, going so far as to give legally protected person hood at conception. Red Clocks follows how this impacts a series of females at varying stages of their lives. It is a nuanced and well thought out story that never hits you over the head with its morals, something which the subject matter seems prone to do.

I am not sure I would have stopped to notice this novel nearly as much had it not been for Texas recently1 passing an abortion bill sanctifying calling the Stasi on people you suspect of having had an abortion, and doing so for financial compensation no less. But that is just the issue – had that not actually happened, I don’t think I would have believed it. What a fucking time to be alive.

That being said, the merits of the book are beyond having just predicted the sad turn in American politics. Frankly, we all knew it was coming. The story itself is very gripping, and comes together in satisfying ways. There are moments where cliches could have been indulged, and thankfully the author elected not.

Seeing dystopias all about us is a mentality I normally reject. Whenever someone tries to claim that things now-a-days are ‘just like 1984’, I point out that they’ve never actually read the book – the only way such an assertion makes any sense. Generally, things are not like our dystopian literature, but the pendulum swings in that direction. Red Clocks is the only book I have encountered that seems to be getting it right. But even then, only in some places. As I safely sit in Europe, even supposedly Catholic Italy isn’t like going to mess with women’s reproductive rights (Poland (the real Catholic stronghold), alas is another story). But in the united states people are working to make this a reality. Sad for everyone there.

1 The word ‘recently’ is doing a funny dance in this sentence. I sometimes shuffle posts around for reasons. This one ended up getting pushed back, repeatedly, for reasons I can no longer remember. But I war reading this book around March of 2022, to give you an idea of when ‘recent’ actually was.

Frankly, I have no idea. And I am happy this way.

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