- Paperback: 321 pages
- Publisher: ChiZine; 1st Edition edition (July 14 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1926851110
- ISBN-13: 978-1926851112
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 22.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 408 g
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #799,234 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism Paperback – Apr 15 2011
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About the Author
David Nickle is a Torontobased author and journalist whose fiction has appeared in magazines and anthologies like CEMETERY DANCE, THE YEAR'S BEST FANTASY AND HORROR, the Northern Frights series and the Queer Fear series. Some of it has been collected in his book of stories, MONSTROUS AFFECTIONS. His first solo novel, EUTOPIA: A NOVEL OF TERRIBLE OPTIMISM, led the NATIONAL POST to call him "a worthy heir to the mantle of Stephen King." He also works as a reporter, covering Toronto municipal politics for a chain of community newspapers.
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Cons: the supernatural aspect isn't as scary as the historically accurate parts
Eutopia takes place in the early 1900's when the eugenics movement was becoming popular with a certain type of people. Mrs Frost, an agent of the Eugenics Records Office finds her nephew is the sole survivor of a plague ravaged frontier town. She brings him with her to Eilada, Idaho, where an industrialist has started what he intends to be a utopic community.
But not everything's rosy in paradise. The town's black doctor, Andrew Waggoner, has had a run in with the Ku Klux Klan and discovered that his colleague, Dr. Bergstrom has been keeping a 'Mr. Juke' in quarantine. The more Dr. Waggoner learns of Dr. Bergstrom's actions and who, or what, Mr. Juke is, the more imperiled his life becomes.
Because Mr. Juke's family is coming to get him back.
For a novel that has such a horrifying supernatural creature at the heart of it, the true terror of the book was contained in the historically accurate parts. It's hard to be afraid of made up monsters when the Klan and practicing eugenicists show up. Indeed, when you see the unrepentant Mrs. Frost and delusional Dr. Bergstrom own up to their crimes, no fictional monster could possibly stand up to the horrors humans are willing to perpetrate on each other.
I call this novel courageous because Mr. Nickle focuses on a period of history most people pretend didn't exist. The eugenics movement died after the holocaust showed the end result of such thinking. But denying that sterilization happened in other nations (including Canada and the U.S.), as painful as it is to admit, denies the injustices done to people in the past due to racism and elitist thinking. And allows the possibility of repeating such things. Fiction allows us to examine issues we'd rather not, in the safety of the present, when we hope such occurrences will never be allowed to happen again. In this way it reminds me of Blonde Roots, by Bernardine Evaristo, which flips history so Europeans are enslaved by Afrikaans. It shows how racism can go both ways and only the conquerors decide what is right and who are the elite.
People will find reading this book uncomfortable, for the subject matter and the liberal use of the 'n' word. We have whitewashed our history and no longer want to acknowledge the attitudes and language of the past. Even the subtle put downs black men faced, like using Dr. Waggoner's Christian name when addressing him, rather than his title, are accurately represented in this book.
The ending is tight, bringing all three plot lines together in surprising ways. It's an ending that is both satisfying, and thought provoking.
It was fast paced. The characters were easy to picture and keep clear in my head. (And some will stay in my head for a long time.)
This is a horror novel, but there is a science-fictional element to the story as well. So, the book is playing with the horror/sf boundary like the movies "Alien" or John Carpenter's "The Thing."
The horror is both graphic and subtle. And it is the subtle horror (racism, eugenics, biological warfare) that has stayed with me.
I also really like the philosophical questions I had to ponder -- what is Eutopia, really? Is it a place? Is it a time? Is it community? Does it even exist? What do you do when you are caught between evil science and evil religion (it's a horror novel, remember? ;).
I want to point out that there are a bunch of reviews of Eutopia on Amazon.com that, for whatever reason, are not included here.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
It's centered on the early Eugenics movement, and the terrible optimism of scientists and social reformers who thought they could create a better humanity. Eugenics sought to be hyper-rational, in line with the new scientific age and unfettered by old-fashioned sentimentality. It was a sort of religion that was suitable to modern times. But who was this religion really serving? That's where the horror comes in.
I highly recommend this novel.