Far from preaching to the converted, Atwood’s cunning tale assumes a like-minded reader only so that she can argue, quite persuasively, from the other side … This family saga is sketched with Atwood’s trademark dark humor and deft hand … Complementing the historical plotline of Iris and Laura’s coming-of-age between the world wars, Atwood braids in two other strands that keep her tale moving at a brisk clip…The Blind Assassin takes Atwood fans to all their favorite places — and ups the ante. This is a dark masterpiece in which tension comes from the sharp juxtaposition of worlds and in which futuristic fantasy interrupts and reflects a disquieting reality.
Atwood...is a dab hand at science fiction. Here, Zycron is out of this world’s time but echoes, as the often interrupted narrator explains, ancient earthly history … History, embodying ‘the ill will of the universe,’ is the ultimate blind assassin, a vast repository of cruelties and annihilations … Atwood’s maze should be allowed its turns and surprises, which unfold cunningly, and at (too much?) leisure. The attentive reader may guess some secrets before they are revealed; others are never revealed completely, as is the way with reality. A nagging sense of gimmickry, amid all these spinning wheels of plot, accompanies our awed and often delighted awareness of Atwood’s mastery of period detail.
Atwood's new novel, for all its multilayered story-within-a-story-within-a-story construction, must be judged flat as a pancake. In The Blind Assassin, overlong and badly written, our first impressions of the dramatis personae prove not so much lasting as total … The Chase girls' childhood – tutors, kitchen conversation, factory picnics – is played out at great length, and while social information should be more highly prized than it is in the modern literary novel, Atwood sometimes operates with the indiscriminate retrieval of an Internet search engine set to ‘display all’ … The less said about Planet Zycron the better; Atwood, alas, says plenty. She lengthily taxonomizes the city of Sakiel-Norn and its class-stratified inhabitants...but she proves unable to relieve the reader's tedium with the place's kinkier features, like children who weave carpets until they are blind and then go on to become throat-cutting hired killers.
The Blind Assassin is, to use an appropriately old-fashioned phrase, grand storytelling on a grand scale. That's not meant to be ironic: For three days I could hardly put the book aside. Still, the novel sometimes verges close to the sentimental and often sounds like a pastiche of period writers … As in so many intricately structured stories, the greatest pleasure derives from the timing of revelations … The Blind Assassin may not be a groundbreaking work of art, but its smoothness, wit and mournful wisdom are deeply ingratiating.
The title of [Atwood’s] latest book, The Blind Assassin, announces its recklessness right up front. It's a killer novel, all right, but it can see exactly where it's going, even when we can't … In fact, for the first 30 self-consciously oblique pages, The Blind Assassin drags us through a pawn shop of incongruous objects … It's a wild ride, but if you can hang on through this opening, you'll be hooked till the whole tragic story finally comes to rest in the most surprising place … Atwood's crisp wit and steely realism are reminiscent of Edith Wharton – but don't forget that side order of comic-book science fiction.
Margaret Atwood again demonstrates that she has mastered the art of creating dense, complex fictions from carefully layered narratives … Where Atwood succeeds, and succeeds magnificently, is in the evocation of childhood...Here it is invested with all the drama and intensity of a gothic horror story, as we spy on Iris and Laura in Avilion, their monstrous Victorian castle of a home … But as the present-day Iris continues with her tale, it mutates into all-out melodrama, complete with a pair of grotesque villains … What we have, at the end, is a mystery story whose chief character is absent. If Atwood hasn't quite managed to pull off this vanishing act, it is largely because her particular brand of fictional magic- making relies on stealth and invisibility; and in this novel we get a little too close to seeing how the trick is performed.
Margaret Atwood's 38th book is not one story, but four: the tales nested perfectly in Russian doll style, one dovetailing into the next and providing a launching point for those still to come. It's initially dizzying, then dazzling and – finally – very compelling to watch Atwood weave her brilliant tapestry … Iris Chase emerges from the story as one of Atwood's most memorable characters to date … Though The Blind Assassin's plot sounds horribly complicated – or at the very least convoluted – Atwood pulls it off without visible effort. In fact, this is Atwood at the zenith of her story weaving powers: it must be.
… a multilayered, unorthodox tale of avarice, love and survival that resonates on several levels. What has been marketed as a novel within a novel could be better described as pulp fantasy within a romance novel within a dark family saga … As a novella, Laura’s tale doesn’t work as well as the rest of the book. Those not fond of science fiction will lose patience with the free-style tale; others who are fond of stories of another world will probably find her work brilliant … It’s not the writing style or genre that prompts impatience, it’s the complexity. Just as the memoir unfolds, she interrupts with yet another tale, decorating the collage with more color, via newspaper clippings, obituaries and sci-fi parables. But variety is quintessential Atwood, and her talent always beckons.
In her ingenious new tale of love, rivalry, and deception, The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood interweaves several genres — a confessional memoir, a pulp fantasy novel, newspaper clippings — to tease out the secrets behind the 1945 death of 25-year-old socialite Laura Chase … Atwood performs a spectacular literary sleight of hand, fashioning a bewitching, brilliantly layered story of how people see only what they wish to — and how terrible the consequences of not voicing the truth can be.
It tells two absorbing stories that cast an initially enigmatic, ultimately pitilessly revealing light on each other. The central one is octogenarian Iris Griffen’s bitter reminiscence of her life as the privileged daughter of a prosperous Ontario family, the Chases … The counterpart story, The Blind Assassin, is a strange futuristic tale that dramatizes in unusual (faux-Oriental) fashion a nameless woman’s obsession with a science-fiction writer whose imaginings blithely mirror and exploit his ‘power’ over her … Atwood keeps our attention riveted by rendering her increasingly dramatic story in a fluent style distinguished by precise sensory description and thought-provoking metaphor.