Hadrian’s Rage by Patricia Budd
Hadrian’s Rage continues the story of a dystopian state in future Northern Canada, which began in Patricia Budd’s previous novel, Hadrian’s Lover. In a world where disastrous climate change and overpopulation had led to widespread war, disease and a devastating scarcity of resources, Hadrian disciplined its citizens to live behind its strongly defended walls in a way that would do the least harm to an already damaged planet. Already a haven for LGBT people who had been persecuted outside Hadrian, its rulers put in place rigorous controls on its own population by enforcing homosexual relationships as the norm.
But like a photographic negative of so many parts of our own world today, the shadow of persecution in Hadrian fell instead on heterosexuals, held responsible for all the ills that had befallen the human race. Heterosexuals were forced to be ‘re-educated’ and marginalised: this led to a tragedy which entangled all the novel’s characters.
In Hadrian’s Rage the principal characters try to work their way through the consequences of this tragedy. We see their struggles as they try to atone for their actions. Relationships are broken as the protagonists reject lifelong denial and move into greater honesty, but unsurprisingly there are many people in Hadrian who don’t want things to change, and battle lines are drawn socially and politically, involving everyone from the despised detritus workers who clean up and recycle Hadrian’s waste, right up to the President herself.
For the sake of avoiding spoilers, I don’t want to mention specific characters and their dilemmas, but I can say that I found that I was drawn in to the characters’ lives and felt sympathy for their anguish and loneliness, and the courage with which they faced their difficulties. Patricia Budd writes movingly about both loneliness and tenderness, as well as about the mindless group mentality that destroys without understanding.
The author shows how much people can be damaged by the deep failings of a society that discriminates against its citizens, and how those same citizens can refuse to give in to its attempts to erase them. Discrimination is a subject that needs to be named, and Patricia Budd has named it strongly. She has referenced many of the examples of discrimination against LGBT people that continue to happen today. Using her plot to turn the situation on its head and show heterosexuals as the persecuted minority, she shines a powerful light on the insanity of discrimination in all its forms. She does not hesitate to write honestly about all aspects of her characters’ lives, from their sexual desires to their physical torments.
The subject of climate change is equally pressing, and the author portrays a world in which a state deals with it head on, being prepared to sacrifice activities or products which are harmful to the planet and its people.
Christiane Glennie May 2016