I’d read an earlier Electric Eclectic Novelette by Michael J. Elliott (“Final Harvest”), so when I saw he had a new release I couldn’t wait to read it. This author is fast becoming one of my favorite go-to reads. His writing is crisp, his imagination terrifying, and his sense of humor delightfully irreverent.
“A Glutton for Punishment” is a darkly dystopian tale where obese people are punished for being, well, fat. Now, this isn’t related to appearance but is a result of rising healthcare costs due to being overweight and diseases that result from obesity. In a seemingly generous move, the obese are given three chances to lose weight and become what the government considers healthy. To encourage weight loss the heavies are provided “Cal-Cards” that restrict their purchases of unhealthy, weight building groceries. Those who attempt to circumvent government laws are punished.
Enter Lynda Whittaker, high school library worker. Note, I did not call her a librarian. Relegated to the back room of the library where she would not be seen or teased by students, she is grateful to even have a job. Lynda has reached her the end of her third attempt at weight loss. On her visit to the Department of Obesity Control and Monitoring, she is informed her time is up. She will be sent to an internment camp for the chronically obese. What follows is nothing short of madness. The camps are secured by Obesity Guards and the inmates are given jobs to perform to earn credits to be spent on supplies like clothing, hygiene supplies, and, you guessed it, food.
Elliott has managed to create an environment that is both horrifying and amusing. Lynda makes friends with her roomie and even develops an essentially platonic relationship with another chubby. Throughout all of this, the potential of being released to a “Fat City” is dangled as a reward. These cities were designed solely for the obese who would never be permitted to return to their old lives but would be able to live with a little more freedom.
Following Lynda through her experiences is an eye-opener. It isn’t difficult to imagine laws like this with consequences as drastic becoming reality. When government becomes authoritarian and controls every facet of its citizen’s lives, things are bound to go awry.
I highly recommend this book. It may be an early warning to the way the world is headed. There are things besides weight they may choose to exercise control over. Much like Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” or George Orwell’s “1984”, this story should make the reader think and even be concerned. Read it for pleasure, but consider the underlying message.
The time: Not long from now
The place: Close to where you live.
In a world where health and medical costs have skyrocketed due to obesity and related illnesses, an authoritarian government takes drastic measures.
The overweight have their food purchases strictly monitored. They are provided with a Cal-Card which must be presented every time they buy groceries and other food. Attempting to purchase non-approved items results in severe disciplinary measures.
The overweight are given three attempts to lose and maintain a healthy weight. Failure to do so results in the overweight being rounded up and send to internment camps.
Lynda Whittaker has just failed her third weight loss attempt.
Inside obesity camp Clinton, the inmates are consigned to work for various multinational companies as virtual slaves with few rights and very little privileges.
Any infringement of camp rules results in summary execution.
But apart from these draconian conditions, Lynda is about to stumble upon a secret.
Something so frightening, so abhorrent, it will push her to the brink of sanity.
Michael J Elliott presents a frightening vision of a future society where to be thin is not only an aspiration, it could mean saving your life and where the overweight have become the 21st Century pariahs.