Juan Cárdenas: Ornamento (Ornamental)

The latest addition to my website is Juan CárdenasOrnamento (Ornamental). This is another dystopian novel from Latin America, this one from Colombia. Our unnamed narrator is testing a new drug on four women (it only works on women) and while three sleep through the test but later report a pleasurable sensation, one, known only as no 4, remains awake and talks throughout. Her ramblings, about her rebuilt mother, her son, her father and stepfather and others topics, will continue to interrupt throughout the book. Our narrator is married to a not very talented but highly successful cocaine-sniffing artist and No 4 is brought into the relationship. Indeed, our dilatory narrator had considered leaving his wife for her. It is all ornamentation, “good taste”, cheap thrills. This is what the world is coming to.

Sara Mesa: Cuatro por cuatro (Four by Four)

The latest addition to my website is Sara Mesa‘s Cuatro por cuatro (Four by Four). This is a somewhat chilling novel. Most of the action takes place in Wybrany College, a mixed-sex boarding school, presumably in Spain. Most of the students come from rich families, though there are some poorer students on scholarships or children of the staff. The college is geographically isolated, as the rest of region seems to be suffering from a breakdown in law and order and environmental problems. Though the school is meant to be a haven, it gradually becomes apparent that something is wrong. Celia, the narrator of the first part of the book, and the assistant headmaster disappear, no-one knows why. In the second part, narrated by a new substitute teacher, Isidro, it gets worse with more disappearances and deaths and strange goings-on and not just in the school. Mesa cleverly builds up the tension, showing a world slowly falling apart but with people unsure of the cause and unable to deal with it.

Ignácio de Loyola Brandão: Não verás país nenhum (And Still the Earth)

The latest addition to my website is Ignácio de Loyola Brandão‘s Não verás país nenhum (And Still the Earth). This is the classic Brazilian dystopian novel, published in 1981 (when the military junta was in power) and referencing both the then current situation in Brazil as well as the elements we are now more concerned about such as climate change, global warming, species extinction, desertification, drought and serious levels of pollution. Overpopulation, corruption, rich vs poor, arbitrary power, high levels of crime and lots of random violence are also an issue. We follow the story of Souza ,a former history professor who lost his job and who simply tries to survive, while wondering what is going on, with everything getting worse by the day, both in São Paulo, where this novel is set, and in his own life.

Rodrigo Márquez Tizano: Yakarta (Jakarta)

The latest addition to my website is Rodrigo Márquez Tizano‘s Yakarta (Jakarta). This is a dystopian novel from Mexico, describing a country called Atlantika, where a horrible epidemic, with the virus vector carried by rats, strikes the country regularly. The latest one – the Ź-Bug – has been brought under control but everyone knows another one will be back. The people have their bread and circuses in the form of a jai-alai type game, called Vakapý, played by robots, where statistics are very important and where a lot of people spend a lot of time and money on betting on it. Our unnamed narrator is part of a clean-up team and bets on Vakapý. He also has a girlfriend, Clara, who has found a strange stone which gives her and, later, him visions, possibly of a different future. But above all the novel is unremittingly bleak.