Rating: 2.0/5.0 stars
Main Takeaways: Slow on the story progression and a confusing structure and writing style. Red Clocks offered an interesting premise, but ultimately fails to deliver.
Set in the terrifyingly not-so-impossible dystopian future, Red Clocks tells the story of four women – a wife, a biographer, a daughter, and a mender – who live through and feel the effects of the United States’ 28th Amendment: The Personhood Amendment. This law makes abortion illegal again, and bans adoption to single parents and IVF as a legitimate form of conception. As these four stories converge, Red Clocks makes the reader think about what it means to be a woman in America, what it means to be a feminist, and how our actions today have very real consequences tomorrow.
Advertised as the millennial’s version of The Handmaid’s Tale, a novel and show that I was immensely immersed in, I was ecstatic to read Red Clocks. I was excited to read of a dystopian future society that quietly resembled our own, a cautionary tale of politics and power. The dystopia Zumas lays out in front of the reader is entirely plausible in today’s America – and one I’ve thought much about myself in fear. The ban on abortion exists in the not so distant past and possibly in the not so distant future; the argument against single-parent families is one that is and always has been played on repeat; the notion of control cloaked in “traditional family values” is omnipresent. Zumas explores this dystopia well, and gives the reader a lot to think about in the present day. Do my actions matter? Does my vote matter? When I think of a political issue, am I looking at the whole picture? Is freedom meant to last forever, or is it ephemeral?
That being said, I found Red Clocks disappointing in a number of ways.
- First and foremost was the pacing of the novel. Despite it being a short novel at 351 pages, the plot did not start to take shape (and my interest not really peaked) until about page 200.
- I found the character development lacking. Zumas really focused on one of the women much more than the other four. So much so that I started to wonder why she even chose to give them narrations rather than make them background characters in The Biographer’s story. I felt that I didn’t really know the other three characters at all, and so I could not understand their choices and their actions, which ultimately inhibits the message of the novel from being delivered.
- Zumas’ writing style is… unique. Her prose will be moving in one direction and then all of a sudden bolt in another. Consequently, this made for an extremely confusing narrative in which I could not follow the characters’ actions or trains of thought as there was no clear distinction between them.
While I appreciate the message that Zumas is trying to send, and I appreciate an exploration of the consequences of today’s society, this book felt just that way. An exploration, and not a crafted story. Red Clocks did not reel me in, nor did I find myself attached to any of the characters; it left me hanging wishing there was something more beneath the surface than choppy narrative and 50 pages of interesting storyline.