Reading this novel will be uncomfortable at times, but when faced with hatred we shouldn’t be comfortable. Perhaps what makes us most uncomfortable in Hadrian’s Rage is how at ease and complicit our society has become toward the LGBTQ community.
I never had the opportunity to read Hadrian’s Lover, but I found that PM Budd provided a reasonable gateway through the prologue and introduction of the novel. It was not difficult for a new reader to the series to become acquainted with the Hadrian and the daily struggle for the “strais”. Throughout each chapter, the footnotes and links to actual new stories that describe the lived horrors that many in the LGBTQ create a visceral impact on the reader. It made me wish that the truth had been stretched or dramatized for the novel–sadly that is not the case.
Despite the setting being in the future, the human quality of the relationships, the conflict, and the violence allow the reader to engage with the plot. Romantic relationships, familial relationships, and professional relationships are repeatedly put to the test. The question of who belongs and how to belong is the source of much guilt and hate. The progression and battle of the news media as the novel progresses shows the pulse of the people of Hadrian. I found that the long stretches of dialogue in the news sessions distracting and preferred when there some description of body language and feeling, but enjoyed the evolution of the newscasts. In Hadrian, like here, people know that violence strikes the strongest when it attacks us in the most personal of ways. There is little more personal than our sexuality and gender.
Occasionally two issues impacted the flow for me while reading. The explanation of some of the specific technologies and environmental issues seemed forced or too much of a break in tone to maintain the narrative. Similarly, the references and humour to Shakespeare seemed periodically rigid. These issues were noticeable for me as I read but did not reduce how drawn I was to the struggle of the people of Hadrian.
While some may call Hadrian’s Rage a dystopia, I see it as a story of hope. Throughout the different struggles there are many voices calling for inclusivity and acceptance. People are still good despite our tendency to harm and hate; perhaps because we still want to love and be loved. That gives me hope for our world. Please take the time to read this book. Be uncomfortable and look at your own stereotypes and values. See the problems we need to overcome, but take hope our future.