In the concluding part of Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy, set in an unspecified but not too distant future, an artificially designed virus brings humankind to the verge of extinction. Told over long stretches through the flashbacks of the few remaining survivors, the pandemic, short and devastating, is what holds the plot together. Yet it’s not the pandemic that I’m reminded of in the midst of the corona crisis, but rather the social conditions in which it plays out. In Atwood’s dystopia, high-tech production centres are surrounded by gated communities where the business and technology elites live in sheltered luxury. Beyond these compounds, in the so-called pleeblands, most people are at the mercy of criminality and the whims of private security services, as well as being subject to higher mortality due to sporadic, localised epidemics. When the ultimate virus strikes, it wreaks havoc in the absence of solidarity and a functioning state.