NY Times Book Review :THE HANDMAID'S TALE By Margaret Atwood.
Surely the essential element of a cautionary tale is recognition. Surprised recognition, even, enough to administer a shock. We are warned, by seeing our present selves in a distorting mirror, of what we may be turning into if current trends are allowed to continue. That was the effect of ''Nineteen Eighty-Four,'' with its scary dating, not 40 years ahead, maybe also of ''Brave New World'' and, to some extent, of ''A Clockwork Orange.''