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Yours for the Taking

Review

Yours for the Taking

Astute readers know that a utopian tale is usually a dystopia in disguise. The word utopia, coined by Thomas More in the 1500s, literally means “no place,” whereas a dystopia is a “bad place.” Utopias are fantasies, but dystopias are all too real. Even in the realm of sci-fi or speculative fiction, utopias are hard to imagine, while dystopias make sense. The literary trick is to try to build a utopia in order to illustrate a dystopian concept.

This is what Gabrielle Korn has done in her first novel, YOURS FOR THE TAKING. Set in the very near future, as devastating climate changes have resulted in global warming and superstorms, a powerful woman imagines a society free of patriarchy and gendered violence. But just decades after she sets her plan in motion, a group of women, directly impacted by her vision, are challenged to dismantle it.

"Korn's debut is an entertaining tale of family, queer identity, possibility and gender.... Thoughtful, romantic, timely and provocative, YOURS FOR THE TAKING is a success."

In 2045, Jacqueline Millender, inheritor of her family’s multibillion-dollar empire, is the author of a wildly popular work of nonfiction, Yours for the Taking!: Reclaiming Female Power in a Changing World. Her beliefs about female autonomy, power and society take dark shape in a project called Inside as New York City crumbles into ruin and disarray amid the rising sea levels and ruinous weather. Later, Millender’s assistant, Shelby Silver, pens her own book, Inside Lied: A Brief History, excerpts of which give Korn’s readers some insight into Millender’s ideas and machinations.

In 2050, Ava and Orchid meet and fall in love. Before their relationship runs what seems to be its natural course, Ava is selected for a coveted spot in Inside, while Orchid is not. Orchid leaves quickly so that Ava will not second-guess this opportunity; selection in one of the Insides around the world is understood to be the only viable way to survive the climate apocalypse. Orchid takes her chances heading north, and Ava enters the sterile environment that, ironically, Orchid had helped physically build. Upon entering Inside, Ava leaves everything behind. She is assigned a small living space, new clothing and a job. Soon she agrees to be impregnated in exchange for a better apartment and release from her agricultural work.

What Olympia, the medical director of Inside, knows that Ava doesn’t is that Ava gives birth to two girls --- one is her own, while the other genetically belongs to Millender. Ava’s daughter, Brook, stays with her, while, unbeknownst to her, newborn July is taken away to be raised communally and watched over by Millender, who, with other elites, is orbiting earth on a space station. July makes her way back to Ava and Brook, and then they are a family of three. But as the years go by, the fragility of life Inside becomes more obvious, as do the injustices that Millender has created in order to design what she believes to be an ideal world.

YOURS FOR THE TAKING takes a vision of a climate crisis future in surprising directions. Millender’s understanding of gender is limited and bigoted. Her misguided beliefs lead her to think that a society without men would be a paradise, but it is not a belief shared by the women she selects for Inside. Her manipulations and experiments are just as violent and harmful as the social structures and cultural norms that she was hoping to get rid of. Outside, Orchid and others find ways to survive; from orbit, Shelby begins to see the trauma that Millender is inflicting on two generations of people Inside. Ava, Brook, Olympia and especially July must choose to try to dismantle Millender’s world from the inside or escape it altogether.

Korn's debut is an entertaining tale of family, queer identity, possibility and gender. Millender is a new version of Big Brother, yet Korn allows her to retain her humanity. The prose tells more than shows, but it moves at a brisk and easy pace, giving readers space to ponder the novel’s complex themes. Thoughtful, romantic, timely and provocative, YOURS FOR THE TAKING is a success.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on December 16, 2023

Yours for the Taking
by Gabrielle Korn

  • Publication Date: December 5, 2023
  • Genres: Dystopian, Fiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • ISBN-10: 1250283361
  • ISBN-13: 9781250283368