Dystopian stories are rooted in science fiction, but this doesn’t mean they have to be filled with it. Frankenstein and Robinson Crusoe serving as her inspiration, Katie Hale’s debut novel is a great example of how sci-fi tales can be quiet and powerful, simple and incredibly moving. My Name Is Monster summons a lot of psychological and societal issues in a futuristic scenario. Despite its familiar resonances with current global affairs, including a pandemic, it deserves the attention of the reading community. Here are some key highlights to look forward to – no spoilers involved.
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One intriguing element of this novel is its minimal number of characters. The protagonist, Monster, is a hard young woman who thinks there are no humans left in the world after a series of apocalyptic events. Out of curiosity and nostalgia, she finds her way back to Scotland, reminiscing as she goes. After a long time of surviving on her own, she stumbles upon a girl and decides to take care of her, teach her everything she knows. The two of them, their relationship and individual exploration of what it means to be human at this point, make up the book’s soul and are more than enough.
Questions of Feminine Identity
The protagonist herself deviates from stereotypical concepts of female behaviour and appearance, as well as general social norms. But an even more vital part of My Name Is Monster is its dissection of labels and language, especially related to femininity. Words like monster, mother, creator and survivor wriggle through the story, changing composition and definition as they go, pushing the reader to look at the characters in different ways. The post-apocalyptic backdrop amplifies civilisation’s past injustices towards individuality.
The narrative is about human civilisation failing on multiple levels due to its hostility and self-destructive impulses. Monster personifies the wisdom of isolation and discipline as means of survival. At the same time, however, the novel ponders the virtues of connection, communication and emotion. To be even more precise, it puts human nature under a microscope to compare and contrast the concepts of instinct and socialisation. How could and would someone exist in a world where humanity as a society and species is virtually gone?
My Name Is Monster gives much to think about, while redefining what science fiction can do and look like. Messages of gender and societal identity within a grounded and visceral story make Hale’s debut novel a worthy addition to the literary canon. If you enjoy sharp and engaging dystopian books, this is one to pick up next.
Paperback release date: 7 January 2021
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