“Clever and chilling – and all too plausible.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
Femlandia is the latest dystopian, thriller novel by Christina Dalcher, the author of Vox and Q (Master Class). This speculative fiction novel is set in a world where economic collapse has bought America to its knees. As a result, there’s a shortage of food, fuel, and other resources, and the country has turned to one of violence and unsafety.
The book’s main character Miranda Reynolds, has lost her job, her husband, and her home. She and her daughter have nowhere left to turn but there is one final hope, Femlandia. A self-sufficient haven for women (or womyn) only that was created by Miranda’s mother, Win Somers.
For Miranda, who struggled to agree with many of her mother’s outlooks on life, Femlandia is the last resort now that life outside the gates is so dangerous for her and her daughter Emma. Upon arrival though, the utopia of Femlandia isn’t quite what it seems and Miranda begins to discover dark and sinister secrets.
The novel’s plot flicks back and forth from different characters and timelines, following the stories of Miranda, and Win Somers. By structuring the novel this way, Dalcher builds the suspense without the plot even further, leaving readers on several small cliff-hangers throughout the book.
Femlandia is Christina Dalcher’s third feminist dystopian fiction novel, cementing her name in the genre. It tells a new story, however, there are a few themes that seem to carry through from one novel to the next; the main female characters in each novel for example all have some qualification and/or job in linguistics and communication, this is perhaps because the author herself is a linguist so she has followed the rule of writing what you know.
Much like Vox and Q, Femlandia is a fast-paced novel that is gripping, thrilling, and full of twists, turns, and shocking reveals. It is a truly chilling tale that is perhaps all too plausible and may leave readers with a bitter, anxious aftertaste. Even in the utopia scenes when Miranda and Emma first arrive at Femlandia, Dalcher maintains the chilling tone, hinting subtly and the darker undertones and leaving readers hooked to the page desperate to find out what is truly happening behind the scenes.
For me, the only downside to this book was the ending which didn’t quite feel right to me. Without giving away too much in the way of spoilers, I do find it hard to believe that children – raised in a land that has never known the patriarchal structure of the outside world – would fall ‘naturally’ into stereotypical gendered roles given for example what we know about matriarchal communities from around the world in history but perhaps I am wrong, and after all, it is the writer’s artistic license to choose how characters interact.
Sinister, compelling and thought-provoking in the questions it forces readers to ask themselves, Femlandia follows well in the footsteps of Vox and Q, exposing the dangers of the modern world without gender equity, and creating a thoroughly fascinating and equally terrifying read.
Catherine Muxworthy, Booksbirdblog
Added 30th November 2021