It's that time of year again - this is the second annual More Diverse Universe event, focusing on speculative fiction by authors of color and hosted by Aarti over at Book Lust. I participated last year with my review of Field of Honor by D.L. Birchfield (one of my favorite reads last year!), and this year I'm reviewing Utopia by Arabic author Ahmed Khaled Towfik.
Translator: Chip Rossetti
Date: 2008 (trans. 2011)
Source: Christmas gift
Read: for A More Diverse Universe
Reading time: about two hours
From GoodReads: A grim futuristic account of Egyptian society in the year 2023, Utopia takes readers on a chilling journey beyond the gated communities of the North Coast where the wealthy are insulated from the bleakness of life outside the walls. When a young man and a girl break out from this bubble of affluence in order to see for themselves the lives of their impoverished fellow Egyptians they are confronted by a world that they had not imagined possible.
My review: Utopia brings back many of the elements of classic dystopian novels: social criticism, frightening possible visions of the future, and pessimism. This particular novel is particularly aimed at Egyptian society; not knowing a great deal about events there over the past few years, I thought a lot of the messages could equally apply to any country or region. This is a brief book, but its vision is powerful and terrifying. The entire novel is an interesting read, but the ending in particular struck me by its lack of redemption for society. This deep pessimism is what really separates Towfik's Utopia from other recent dystopian writings that see themselves as needing to offer an ending with some goodness to a story rather than focus entirely upon prophetic examinations of socio-economic and political issues. The surprise of the conclusion made the book fantastic and utterly depressing to me at the same time.
Maturity factor: general content, non-explicit rape