The Heads of Cerberus
A rediscovered classic of science fiction, set in a dystopian twenty-second-century society where the winner takes all, a precursor to The Hunger Games by one of the genre’s first major female writers—with an introduction by Naomi Alderman, New York Times bestselling author of The Power and Disobedience
Philadelphia, 1918: Three friends—brave, confident Viola Trenmore, clever but shy Robert Drayton, and Viola’s strong and hot-tempered brother, Terry—discover a mysterious powder that transports them two hundred years into the future. The Philadelphia of 2118 is no longer a bustling metropolis but instead a completely isolated city recovering from an unknown disaster. Citizens are issued identification tags instead of having names, and society is split between a wealthy, powerful minority and a downtrodden lower class. The position of supreme authority is held by a woman, and once a year she oversees competitions to the death to determine who rules alongside her. When Viola, Terry, and Robert are forced to take part in these strange and deadly games, it will take their combined wits for them to escape this strange world and return home.
Equal parts adventure and dystopia, The Heads of Cerberus is an unjustly forgotten work of early science fiction written by a trailblazing master of the genre.
Praise for The Heads of Cerberus
“An early-twentieth-century time-travel dystopia whose vision of 2118 resonates eerily with our own century . . . a fast-paced, imaginative yarn.”—Kirkus Reviews
“An intriguing and political time-travel adventure.”—Publishers Weekly
The Modern Library Torchbearers series features women who wrote on their own terms, with boldness, creativity, and a spirit of resistance.
This rediscovered 1919 classic by Stevens (the pseudonym of Gertrude Barrows Bennett, 1884 1948, who arguably invented dark fantasy) is an intriguing and political time-travel adventure. Clever teen Viola Trenmore is hanging out in 1918 Philadelphia in the company of her brother, Terence Trenmore, a wealthy, burly Irishman; his friend Robert Drayton, a lawyer; and Arnold Bertram, a hapless burglar. After Drayton breaks open a crystal vial, the dust inside it propels the foursome to a strange limbo called Ulithia, where they meet dancing shadow people. Then they're sent 200 years into the future. The capricious regime of 2118 uses murderous public competitions to keep the population subjugated, and the oppressed are forced to wear large yellow buttons; though the text predates Nazi Germany by decades, modern readers will find those connotations inescapable. Viola is as logical as she is petite, and easily holds her own alongside the men as they explore weird Ulithia and interact with corrupt government officials. This work, set in the birthplace of America, proclaims that democracy is tenuous, and its themes will be deeply resonant for those concerned by present-day politics.