Meet the author: Lionel Shriver, a Prometheus Best Novel finalist for Should We Stay Or Should We Go

Maverick American-British writer Lionel Shriver has been recognized – again – in the Prometheus Awards.

Author Lionel Shriver (Creative Commons License)

First nominated in 2017 for The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047, which went on to become a Best Novel finalist, Shriver has been recognized as one of five 2022 Best Novel finalists for her novel Should We Stay Or Should We Go.

Shriver, a columnist for The Spectator magazine in Britain, may be best known for her novel We Need to Talk About Kevin, an international bestseller adapted for the 2010 film starring Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly.

Shriver’s provocative and timely novel, inspired by recent Columbine-style mass shootings by students in schools, explores a mother’s disturbing quest to understand her teenage son’s deadly violence, her own mixed feelings about motherhood and how the latter may have influenced the former.

Shriver, who lives in London and Brooklyn, New York, was a National Book Award finalist for So Much for That. Her contemporary novel revolves around a crumbling marriage and a family struggling to cope with disease, dying and the high cost of today’s medical care.

As in Should We Stay or Should We Go, Shriver’s New York Times bestseller The Post-Birthday World adopts an alternate-reality framework – in this case, to probe the mysteries of love, free will and chance encounters as a woman explores romantic relationships with two very different men.

Meanwhile, Shriver’s iconoclastic journalism – often skeptical of authoritarian tendencies on the Left or right, and  reflecting a hard-nosed realism that punctures common political delusions and collectivist or populist assumptions – has appeared in Harper’s magazine, The Guardian, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Her other books include The Motion of the Body Through Space (about the modern obsession with exercise, running and health) and Property, an intriguing collection of stories on a subject rarely explored by mainstream novelists: the importance of property in our lives.

Critics often praise her novels, but often do so with palpable mixed feelings – one sign of their provocative power to challenge conventional thinking.

For instance, Ariel Levy, reviewing one of her novels in The New Yorker, wrote: “What’s remarkable is that Shriver, who is at her most lyrical and compelling when contemplating her characters’ ambivalence, is so inordinately assured of her positions on real-world issues

In The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047, Shriver paints a dystopian portrait of  a recognizable modern family on the run and trying to survive the collapse of the U.S. economy from a rapacious federal government and its massive taxation, inflation and debt.

The Mandibles, one of the few dystopian novels with a suspenseful and compelling story drawn from an accurate understanding of both economics and the way markets, politics and dysfunctional governments actually work in the real world, became a 2017 Prometheus Best Novel finalist and remains a favorite of LFS members.

(Check out Tom Jackson’s Prometheus Blog review of The Mandibles.)

Here is a capsule-review description of Shriver’s Should We Stay Or Should We Go, one of this year’s Prometheus finalists:

Should We Stay or Should We Goby Lionel Shriver (HarperCollins) – Explicitly affirming the libertarian self-ownership principle that “Our lives belong to us… and it’s up to us how we choose to end them,” this kaleidoscopic novel explores 12 alternate-universe scenarios.

An aging, comfortably affluent British married couple makes end-of-life decisions with unpredictable consequences.

Shriver, with her characteristic wit and maverick insights, shows how aging and life/death decisions are difficult enough but become much worse through government paternalism, welfare-state bureaucracies, socialized health care, forced medication, involuntary hospitalization, virtual imprisonment, anti-suicide laws, massive debt/inflation and/or other government dysfunctions.

Variously evoking dystopian specters (Orwell, Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) or exploring the downsides of seemingly utopian advances (super-long lives, cryogenics), the thought-provoking, fast-paced novel satirically but seriously offers timely cautionary tales as the average life expectancy of the world population rises into the 70s and beyond.

Note: For a more in-depth look at Shriver’s novel, visit this recent full-length Prometheus Blog review.

* Prometheus winners: For a full list of winners, finalists and nominees – for the annual Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) categories and occasional Special Awards – visit the enhanced Prometheus Awards page on the LFS website, which now includes convenient links to the full set of published appreciation-reviews of past winners.

* Read “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction,” an essay in the international magazine Quillette that favorably highlights the Prometheus Awards, the Libertarian Futurist Society and the significant element of libertarian sf/fantasy in the evolution of the modern genre.

Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards, join the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), a non-profit all-volunteer association of freedom-loving sf/fantasy fans.

Libertarian futurists believe that culture matters! We understand that the arts and literature can be vital, and in some ways even more powerful than politics in the long run, by sparking innovation, better ideas, positive social change, and mutual respect for each other’s rights and differences.

Through recognizing the literature of liberty and the many different but complementary visions of a free future via the Prometheus Awards, the LFS hopes to help spread better visions of the future that help humanity overcome tyranny, slavery and war and achieve universal liberty and human rights and a better world (perhaps eventually, worlds) for all.

Published by

Michael Grossberg

Michael Grossberg, who founded the LFS in 1982 to help sustain the Prometheus Awards, has been an arts critic, speaker and award-winning journalist for five decades. Michael has won Ohio SPJ awards for Best Critic in Ohio and Best Arts Reporting (seven times). He's written for Reason, Libertarian Review and Backstage weekly; helped lead the American Theatre Critics Association for two decades; and has contributed to six books, including critical essays for the annual Best Plays Theatre Yearbook and an afterword for J. Neil Schulman's novel The Rainbow Cadenza. Among books he recommends from a libertarian-futurist perspective: Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist & How Innovation Works, David Boaz's The Libertarian Mind and Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress.

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