Moths: A chilling dystopian thriller and a must-read debut for 2023
A divergent future with a thought-provoking feminist slant, perfect for those who loved The Power, The Handmaid's Tale and Vox.
Mary considers tying her teenage son to the radiator.
Olivia flees the bloody scalpel of a surgeon, as he hunts her through the corridors of A&E.
All around the world men are turning into crazed killers or dying in their sleep, as toxic threads find passage on every breath of wind.
Humankind will survive. But only just.
Moths is the new dystopic novel proposal, written by Jane Hennigan, and published traditionally by Angry Robot Books (it was previously self-published). What we have here is a brilliant story, a different way to tell how a mysterious pandemic evolved into a society where men are recluded into facilities to ensure their wellbeing (as the plague only affects them); creating a dystopic society where the relationship between the genres changes radically.
Toxic threads originated from moths only those who are biologically male. And there's no cure, leading the infected to either die or become extremely violent; all of this has evolved into a matriarchal society. Decades after the outbreak, we are going to be following Mary and Olivia, who were present the moment all began.
And personally, I feel part of why this novel feels so brilliant is Mary, the main character. A woman in her seventies, with a family that she practically lost when the outbreak happened, and that still remembers the world before moths changed it. A really empathic person, still working as a career in the facilities where men are secluded.
Mary also brings contrast with the younger women, who tend to see men more as something to care, for or just to protect, rather than part of society; and that is also reflected in the way they treat those under their care.
Moths is told using a dual timeline, mixing the moments when the pandemic was starting and the present, fourty years after. While the pacing at the present time tends to be slower and calmer, the memories of our characters tend to depict more tense moments, and it balances pretty well.
With this structure, we can also understand more about how Mary and Olivia are behaving, and why they take some decisions that might seem not logical at first glance.
This novel is a brilliant exercise of thoughts about how roles might change and how a catastrophe might impact the world; how those that didn't experience a time before the change will behave in different ways to those that lived through the difficult moments. I totally recommend Moths to those that enjoyed The Handmaid's Tale, and in general, I think if you like dystopic stories, this book should be for you. I, for sure, will be reading Toxxic once it is released.
Jane is a forty-something mother of two living in Surrey in the UK. She finally made it to university at the age of thirty-four, studying philosophy and English literature. After graduating, Jane began teaching English and philosophy, squeezing her passion for writing into any spare time she could find.