Bookshots: 'Ectopia' by Martin Goodman
Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review
Who Wrote It?:
Martin Goodman, Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Hull, and Director of the Philip Larkin Centre for Poetry and Creative Writing. He is also a biographer and has written numerous non-fiction works on spiritualism and shamanism.
Plot in a Box:
A dystopia set in a scorched-earth London where all species have stopped producing female offspring, and a gay teenager and his twin sister—the last girl ever born—are humanity's only hope.
Invent a New Title For This Book:
Literal Children of Men
Read This If You Like:
Brave new worlds, Children of Men by P.D. James, A Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.
Meet the Book’s Lead:
Steven, AKA Bender: runner, member of Teensquad, and
reluctant obstinate savior of mankind.
Said Lead Would Be Portrayed In a Movie By:
Kodi Smit-McPhee or Asa Butterfield (who are kind of the same kid, now that I think about it).
Setting: Would You Want to Live There?
I don't think I'd want to live in regular London, let alone scorched-earth lady-less future London.
What was your favorite sentence?
Mom sprogged me and I was a girl so that was nice, then some hours later she sprogged Steven and he was a boy so that was terrific and Dad got drunk on whisky and lost consciousness and when he came round good news was bad news and he wasn't a proud father any more.
Ectopia is interesting for a number of reasons. First off, the ruling entity that is so common in these types of stories isn't black and white evil. It's actually out to help mankind. It's just willing to do that by any means necessary. And the "hero" of the story isn't a white knight bastion of altruism; he's kind of a dick. So this isn't an "Us versus Them" story. Motivations are a lot grayer than that.
Actually, I take that back. It is an "Us versus Them" story. The "Us" is mankind and the "Them" is nature. That's another thing that sets Ectopia apart. Mankind destroys the earth, but instead of learning their lesson and co-existing with nature in an attempt to rebuild, they decide to use science to overcome nature's defenses and bend it to their will.
Another interesting difference is, even though no new female offspring are being produced, it is the women that are in control behind the scenes, running the "State." They have ballooned up so their mouths don't move and their eyes can't see. They sit in a room with large windows, feeling the sun, connected to a networked hive mind. They are all "Mom" and have been working on the fertility problem.
Which is where Steven comes in. I don't want to give too much away, but let's just say Martin continues to subvert sex and gender roles. Between that and the book's title, you should have a good idea of where this is going.
Another big theme in the novel is that of free will, or the illusion thereof. Combined with what Martin has to say about societal roles and human sexuality, there's a lot of ideas swimming around, and sometimes the water gets muddy. I don't agree with everything he's put forth, or love everywhere the story goes, but he gives the reader a lot to think about.
Martin delivers his ideas with minimal descriptive passages, and the lack of exposition makes it difficult to get a grasp on the world the story takes place in, at least early on. I wouldn't call it myopic, but the story is focused on a handful of characters and takes place in one small area. At a certain point Steven is spoon fed a lot of information, therefore, so are we. This type of info-dumping isn't ideal, and is one of the flaws in an otherwise well written story.
Overall, Ectopia is a thought provoking read that isn't afraid to take risks, which gives it a leg up in the crowded dystopian marketplace. It's not going to usurp The Hunger Games as teenagers' dystopia du jour (especially since Middle Amerimoms won't appreciate the incest and gay sex), but give it a few years and some of them will want to cut their teeth on something meatier.
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