I read The Fortress by S.A. Jones at the same time that I started watching the award-winning TV series, The Handmaid’s Tale, and was reading my son A Wrinkle in Time, which has just been made into a movie. There was much overlap in the issues raised in each of these.
They are all based in the future where the world is very different, but also done so realistically that you can imagine it happening. The Fortress of the title is a female dominated society, operating in a walled off area alongside the world that exists much as it does today.
Jonathon has chosen to spend a year there, with the aim of being a better father to his, at the start of the book, unborn child. Jokes are made about it, calling it ‘Pussy Prison … If that’s punishment, I’ve been a bad, bad boy. But for all that few male citizens elected to do their national service within The Fortress. What man, after all, wanted to serve women’.
He is a man who likes to be busy so the hard, manual work is no problem. ‘Stillness smelt rank to him’. But it is the domination, subjugation and control that he has to adjust to. He has the tables turned on him where he feels ‘he was goods being appraised at auction’.
Jones’s writing vividly portrays the society and the flip of power, and small details are captured uniquely – ‘self-reproach and confusion did the violator’s work for them’ and of a party, ‘Christmas had vomited all over the office’.
By inventing an opposite civilisation, Jones has created an insightful and thought-provoking look at gender, sex and authority in today’s society.