The War Against Chaos Critical Essays

Anita Mason


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Mason humanizes dystopian fiction in The War Against Chaos. Formula yields to surprise and predictability to suspense. Unlike many works in this genre, Mason’s book sees characters change and become more vulnerable and less cautious. Hare and Angel, a homosexual Marginal, are able to assess their behaviors and commitments and then make radical changes, both completely abandoning their complacency and becoming engaged for the first time.

As in Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Player Piano (1952), George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four (1949), Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), and almost every other dystopian novel, the sociopolitical “mind” of Mason’s story maintains an all-or-nothing worldview. There is either control or chaos. There is no room for anything as creative as a Hegelian synthesis. Even a suggestion of change is perceived as a symptomatic warning sign of chaos, and the perpetrator is confined to the Zone.

Mason’s characters make frequent and explicit reference to the need to contain chaos. Meeting a Marginal is termed an “irruption of the irrational and chaotic.” Because of its potentially subversive or decadent content, art seen as chaotic is banned; artists and writers are assigned acceptable material and format. It is art that reminds men and women of “what it is to be human . . . the richness, the pain, the at times intolerable difficulty” of being alive. This...

(The entire section is 483 words.)