What makes reading Margaret Atwood such fun is her gift for enjoying herself so thoroughly as she writes. She makes you share her zest for words, people, jokes, sharp-edged description and endless inventiveness. After the dystopic futurism of Oryx and Crake, Moral Disorder brings back a heroine familiar from previous novels. She grows up (like Atwood) in Fifties Canada, experiences childhood in vivid intensity, gets put upon, survives. But the form we meet her in is new. Like Carlos Fuentes’s Crystal Frontier (nine stories which become one story at the end), Moral Disorder is a novel presented kaleidoscopically, through eleven discrete short stories.
The first, ‘Bad News’, set in a dystopic future, affects all the others. The speaker and her partner Tig wake up (‘For now, night is over’) in an unspecified country and time. Tig’s real name is Gilbert. (Atwood’s own partner is the nature writer Graeme Gibson.) But ‘it’s impossible’, she