Thursday, July 19, 2018

Book Review: Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

Hardcover, 263 pages

Published November 2017 by Harper

I know I first heard about this book while listening to a podcast and I want to say it was NPR's Fresh Air but I could be wrong about that. Broken into three narrative parts, each feels a little different from the other but not enough that you'll feel like you are reading a new book.

Louise Erdrich is an award winning writer, and I could tell that she is amazing. I certainly who am I to give a bad review to an author who won the national book award and was a finalist for the Pulitizer. I mean she is clearly a great author, but sometimes writer and idea don't mesh well together. I just think this sub-genre benefits from certain skills and abilities that are honed by writing and reading genre fiction. It is like the difference from being a native and tourist. I think Erdrich is a dystopia tourist.

I enjoyed the first act best, when the author was using a little more humor and weirdness in the prose. once the story got into the societal effects that drive the plot is when the book lost me. This is a case of a very talented literary author trying her hand at genre, and in my opinion not really doing it justice. It felt like it was an attempt to be a Climate Change themed re-telling of The Handmaid's Tale. While Atwood doesn't really consider herself science fiction or speculative fiction she really is. She understands one basic thing that Erdrich didn't. You have do at least some world building in a dystopia, this book has almost ZERO world building.

FHFTLG is very rightly getting dinged by some for being a little too much like the Handmaid's tale. I could have lived with it if it was at least an advancement over the influence. A good case in point is Robert McCammon's Swan Song that owes an awful lot to King's classic The Stand. The thing is I can live with that because honestly I think Swan Song is better.

Unlike the Atwood classic that examines the whole culture of the story we get a few random paragraphs that just left me thinking that we are missing the point. I like character driven stories but in this genre you have to balance that impulse with giving the reader a understanding of what is happening to them. Cedar Songmaker is a GREAT character in a empty shell of book that fails explore it's own plot.

In this case it is future heavily effected by the effects of global climate change. I am very passionate about stories addressing these issues. I am always on the look out for authors who are tackling climate issues. I wanted to like this but just can't give it a thumbs up. I have been seeing this on a few lists of must read climate change influenced fiction and I have to say that there are lots of better entries in that canon.

Erdrich is a great writer, far better than many of us who are writing cli-fi, but just can't see this as a a great example of climate change in speculative fiction.

1 comment:


Well said, David. Agreed.