Which do we want, democracy or fascism? Pick one. (Wait…isn’t this supposed to be a book review?)

Jo Walton claims to be an optimist. So does Margaret Atwood. Keep that in mind while reading their dystopian novels. If you take the long view, you can see what they mean, but it’s all too easy to imagine that you’re reading 1984.

I claim in the title to this post that it’s supposed to be a book review, and it is. The book in question is Half a Crown, Volume III of Jo Walton’s Small Change trilogy. Earlier I reviewed Farthing and Ha’penny, which are Volumes I and II. Half a Crown is a fitting conclusion to the series. It’s a magnificent dystopian novel, and the only reason it isn’t totally discouraging is the ending, which teeters on the edge of being a deus ex machina, although in this case it’s more of a deus ex regina.

We’re now in the ’60s in this alternate history of fascist Britain. Even more than in the first two volumes we’re really learning about the 21st Century, despite the time frame of 60 years ago. The degree of antisemitism in the novel is hard to read, especially since it’s so matter-of-fact and just taken for granted—the banality of evil, as Hannah Arendt put it. Too many people want a “strong leader” rather than democracy (sound familiar?).

The tension in Half a Crown builds and builds to the point where you can’t put it down. But be sure to read the books in order!

Categories: Books, Life