The superficial difference between the two at first overshadow
the similarities. Both novels are about survivors of civilisations
that have been wiped out and how they reform society. Certain
characters have precognitive flashes of the future, the nature of
the disasters that start both books put reproduction to continue
the society in question, and both new societies are faced with a
second which opposes everything the new one stands for. And both
novels carry a theme of risking yourself for society.
The two great "anti-utopian" novels, each showing a future
society wherein the government controls all through suppression of
thought and individuality. The methods of stopping individuality
differ between the two books, but the theme of how important
individuality is, is shared.
It's amazing that a hippy who was good friends with the late
Dr. Timothy Leary could write a book which explores the same themes
with similar methods as a world renowned Italian writer, but they
do. Both use Illuminati, Templars and Free Mason conspiracies to
explore the meaning of knowledge, and the line between truth and
Apart from main characters who are snatched into strange
Twilight Zone like worlds, neither book has much in common in terms
of plot, but they share a similar style of storytelling, perhaps
because the two authors are British from the same generation.
Both ... follow female journalists across the edges of war,
ultimately to themselves. Both books also examine what it means to
be human and where the borders of that definition are, relative to
Both books deal with the subject of whether a person can be
said to be virtuous if he has been trained to be so. This is far
more of a major theme in A Clockwork Orange, where the
main character is literally brainwashed into being unable to
perform acts of violence; but in The Tenant of Wildfell
Hall, Helen attempts to steer her son away from alcohol by
administering it as a punishment for when he has been bad. There is
at least one explicit discussion concerning this.
Two novels set in among bright cliques at small colleges. In
the afterword to Tam Lin, Dean describes the book as
being about the struggle "to keep the heart of flesh in a world
that wants to put in a heart of stone"; from the first sentence of
The Secret History, you know that her protagonists
have lost the struggle.
Both of these could legitimately be described as (and I'm going
to kill myself for even saying this word) "post-cyberpunk." That
is, both of 'em have the high-speed digital network and vaguely
futuristic setting that we expect from cyberpunk; but neither of
them really has that tragically hip attitude. They're very
different in feel, but both are vastly different from Gibson or
Both novels have writers as protagonists, who find themselves
in strange (maybe supernatural) reality-warping circumstances
related in some ways to writing. In each book they struggle to
figure out what is happening while having to deal with losing
someone close to them. The structure of the two books are
different, but they deal with similar themes and each builds to a
similar climax with the protagonists coming to terms with their
world and themselves.
Both feature a master game-players/strategist/ manipulator who
will "play" against an alien race, each player is manipulated
himself in some ways, and each book also deals with the effects of
becoming too deeply involved in the games.
Odd mish-mash of high and low tech, as humanity is guided
(manipulated?) by powerful computers on a long journey to a new
homeland. Technology exists, but people's knowledge and
understanding of its nature seems to have been lost. Religious
themes are very prominent.