‘The Book of Joan’ by Lidia Yuknavitch – Even Worse Than a Dystopia


‘The Book of Joan’ by Lidia Yuknavitch   (2017) – 267 pages


To call ‘The Book of Joan’ a dystopia is an understatement. Here is a dystopia to end all dystopias.

The question arises.  Why do we need to read a fictional dystopia when we’ve got the real Donald Trump?  Perhaps we just want to find a society, a world, that is even worse off than our own.

The dictionary definition for a dystopia is:

Dystopia – an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.

In ‘The Book of Joan’, Earth has suffered a devastating geocatastrophe, and the elite have deserted earth for a space station, CIEL, above the Earth.  Now they are intent on destroying whatever life remains on earth.  Joan, a modern-day Joan of Arc, and her sidekick Leone are heroically fighting the elite in order to preserve the little life on earth that remains.

“My god, what kind of brutal abomination dismisses the suffering of the majority of the world’s population as worth sustaining a tiny number of pin-headed elites?“

There are other hints that here we are in the Age of Trump.

“We are what happens when the seemingly unthinkable celebrity rises to power.  Our existence makes my eyes hurt. People are forever thinking that the unthinkable can’t happen.”

In the novel scarification is the new art.  People tell their stories by burning the skin on their bodies.  Their sex organs have become useless and dysfunctional.

“Men are among the loneliest creatures.  They lose their mothers and cannot carry children, and have nothing to comfort themselves with but their vestigial cockular appendages.  This is perhaps the reason they move ever warward when they are not moving fuckward.  Now that the penis is defunct, a curling up little insect, well, who can blame them for their behaviors?” 

‘The Book of Joan’ is a gruesome fever dream of a novel.  It maintains a constant fierce pitch of desolation. There are no quiet or calm or happy interludes.  It is all devastating upheaval after disastrous disturbance. To me the novel lacks a baseline of normalcy to contrast with all the strange events that occur. The prose is inflamed, chaotic, hectic, and overwrought.    Peaceful quiet lulls in the furious action would have made the bad times seem even more horrendous, more effective.

Maybe younger readers don’t need peaceful respites.  After all we are living in the Trump Era of total chaos.


Grade :   B-


2 responses to this post.

  1. Bleah! What made you read it?



    • Hi Lisa,
      Good Question. I read a positive review in the Washington Post. I’m beginning to not trust positive reviews even in my most trusted sources. There are just too many positive reviews and not enough negative reviews. Although my faith in the novel wavered quite early, I kept at it, perhaps thinking I could at least get a good negative review out of it for here. The writing in the novel did seem amateurish, overwrought, perhaps something a high school student might write.



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