Master Class by Christina Dalcher (Berkley)
September 28, 2020
Dear Mr. Hemingway,
It is always wise to remember the past when talking about the future. History doesn’t always remain a distant memory. It often likes to rear its ugly head when you least expect it, begging you to pause and reevaluate.
Christina Dalcher’s contemporary dystopian tale, Master Class incorporates contentious issues from the past and present into a fictional world where the unimaginable may not be far from the truth.
You would think that over the past hundred-plus years, people would be free from discrimination, inclusivity would be the norm and inequality would be considered a term from “the olden days”. This is not the case in Dalcher’s latest novel. She vividly creates a present-day world designed to promote the elite…the creme de la creme. A cookie cutter society that breeds only the best. In Master Class, the educational system is tiered. Everyone has a quotient or “Q” score. Think of it similarly to an I.Q. You are either placed in a Silver, Green, or Yellow school. Silver is for the elite/high quotient students, Green is a step-down, and Yellow is the lowest. Students are tested monthly to ensure they are in the correct placement at all times. Slip up and you are swiftly brought down. Careful though, what goes down doesn’t always come back up. Silver is obviously your best bet. Green is acceptable, but a tough place to be in. It is like being in “purgatory”…you are incessantly waiting to see if you will elevate to the heavens above (Silver) or plummet to the fires of hell below (Yellow). Can you say… constant state of panic? Parents are regularly holding onto the edge of their seats the Monday after testing day. Which bus color will come and pick up their child? Silver, Green, or will the Yellow bus come collecting their child and their suitcase too.
In comes Elena Fairchild. Elena is a teacher at one of the Elite schools, a mom to two school-age girls, and married to Malcolm, one of the masterminds behind this educational system. When one of their daughters does poorly on her monthly tests, she is demoted to a yellow school. Absolutely heartbroken that her daughter will now be sent away from her, Elena begins to question the “weeding out” process that she at one time helped dream up (hello Serena and Fred Waterford…AKA The Handmaid’s Tale). As she takes inventory of what is going on around her, she makes an appalling discovery about the end goal of this educational system and the fate of those who don’t make the cut.
Elitism, class systems, abortion, and eugenics fill the pages of Dalcher’s story. Master Class may be a work of fiction set in a “make-believe” world, but let’s not forget that these are real issues that have held a place in the past and are still debated even today. Women having a baby over the age of 35 is unheard of in Master Class. Cranking out babies needs to happen early on to ensure they have the highest “Q” score. Did I mention that you can determine your baby’s “Q” potential before you give birth? Abortions are highly encouraged if scores are not up to snuff and the women in Dalcher’s world actually complain that manicures take longer then their abortions…as if!!!! Have a quotient score above a nine and the world is your oyster. Start dipping below and your prospects grow dim. So dim that your “kind” is not beneficial to society. Probably not worth investing much time, money, or resources into this “yellow” population. In fact, better to stop them in their tracks before more of “them” are born. Can you say WILD?
Eugenics-The study of how to arrange reproduction within a human population to increase the occurrence of heritable characteristics regarded as desirable~Oxford Languages
I absolutely LOVED Master Class. As a parent, I can honestly say I got the chills reading this. There is most certainly a vibe in today’s parenting world to push your child to their maximum potential. Extra tutors, private schools, club sports, college advisors, you get the gist. Whether its sports, AP classes, college admission, job opportunities, and EVEN PRE-SCHOOL for Pete’s sake, there is always a competition going on. Who makes the grade and who falls under the radar? Let’s face it…it’s hard to keep up with the Joneses. Is this book far fetched or is it a little too close to home? I’ll let you decide.
How appropriate it feels to have read this book during this heated political climate that I am immersed in each day. While waiting to see who the next Supreme Court Justice will be (R.I.P. RBG) and of course THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, Master Class is beyond thought-provoking. Dalcher brilliantly embeds some of the most controversial topics of our time in her dystopian world. Her writing is edgie and downright eerie. Her book is a gripping read that absolutely warrants a conversation. I highly recommend reading this for a book club or with a group of friends. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. It’s a page turner…that’s for sure! Happy Reading!
Until Next time friend!
Your Biggest Fan,
P.S. For those of you who have been following me for the last two years, you know that I am an audiobook junkie. Master Class was incredible on audio. If you love listening to your books while out running errands or doing dreaded housework, I can’t urge you enough to join Libro.fm. It is the exact same as the other big brand audio bookseller (you know who I am talking about), but it supports YOUR LOCAL INDIE BOOKSTORE OF CHOICE. Click here to use my referral link!
Click on the pic below to purchase Master Class.