With the growth in climate change concern over time, imaginations of the planet’s future have flooded literature and media.
In her most recent novel “Yours for the Taking,” Gabrielle Korn envisions a dystopian wasteland that raises interesting questions about identity, feminism and social justice. The story begins in 2050: The planet is rotting, society suffers from extreme economic disparity and, interestingly, tension between feminists and men’s rights activists. Jacqueline Millender — celebrity, feminist and heiress to a powerful company — wants to create a physical utopian bubble called “The Inside” to protect people from extreme weather, solve all forms of oppression and expand her scope of power while she’s at it.
Amid skepticism, Jacqueline executes her plan, the implications of which reverberate far into the future. The sci-fi novel follows this development through the perspectives of several women from different backgrounds and circumstances.
I found the reading experience subpar. While the novel’s representation of futuristic feminism was interesting, many of the other elements were somewhat trite, almost familiar. These included a decaying planet, an oppressive government, space travel, mind control and exacerbated inequality.
The novel ultimately felt like an unnecessary addition to the climate fiction genre. The premise is such a stretch that it doesn’t serve as a warning or a call to action in the way that other sci-fi books do. If you’re looking for a better written and more innovative work of climate fiction, I would recommend Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Sower” or Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.”
While the writing in “Yours for the Taking” is not groundbreaking, it does give characters unique voices, explore the ideas of power and powerlessness and represent modern-day political issues in a new light.
Characters and their perspectives are at the center of the novel. These include Ava and Orchid, a queer couple forced to reckon with limited opportunities for safety; Olympia, a black, queer female doctor who bends her own moral compass out of desperation and Shelby, a transgender woman from a working-class family who grapples with her life’s purpose.
Korn goes beyond exploring diverse perspectives of LGBTQ+ women and people of color. She asks her characters: who are you, and what tools do you use to define yourself? For some, it is their marginalized identities, their relationships or their bond to their children. For others, it is a much more perplexing desire.
Jacqueline wants to eradicate sexism, but can’t see beyond her heterosexual, white feminist perspective as she crafts the only safe space for human life.
Olympia wants to create change from the inside, but what if that idea is a fiction?
In the end, characters want social justice, and readers want poetic justice — is achieving both too good to be true? We see characters manipulated and characters in denial. We are confronted with the human tendency to believe what is most convenient to us and even find ourselves questioning this tendency in our own lives, identities and politics.
When characters are given the chance to discover the truth about “The Inside,” they must decide whether to live in ignorance or to create crucial change. “Inside” is a clever name for the bubble: each character in the story is trapped, stuck or imprisoned in one way or another.
This led me to examine our society’s tendency to passively follow daily tragedies of current events and let values like individuality and morality fade away. While the novel’s imagined future is an implausible one, we can certainly draw thought-provoking parallels between our world and the fictional world.
Aside from an interesting conception of a dystopian future, what’s distinct about Korn’s story is her use of dramatic irony. Readers are almost regarded as characters in the story — the third-person omniscient point of view strategically gives us insight and withholds information from us, too. This lends itself to an at-times entertaining and suspenseful reading experience. Every now and then I found myself sitting up, leaning in and even gasping as the story unfolded.
As we contemplate the future of our planet, we can all relate to the desire for poetic justice as a story ends. In Korn’s “Yours for the Taking,” we come to learn that there is no justice, poetic or otherwise, in a dystopian future.
Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques.