Human drama hides behind science fiction's settings

Still from the new HULU series The Handmaid's Tale

There is a tendency to think about science fiction as an easy out from the hardships of reality, especially when dealing with film and TV; as if the adventures and hardships of the characters, because they are set in places distant either in space or time (and sometimes both), are somehow less meaningful, shallower and lackluster. And this might have something to do with the fact that settings in science fiction play such an important part, so much so that at times they out-stage the characters and their dramas.

When characters are hiding from the worst totalitarian regime in history, one with the power to rewrite history and have its citizens forget their own pasts, the love story between a divorced older man and a much younger woman, tends to go unnoticed, and it becomes more anecdotal than anything else, even though the whole story of 1984 does to a large extent revolve around the relationship between Winston and Julia. This is a story of forbidden love that when told in a "conventional" setting, like 21st century America gives you 50 Shades of Grey, and if you go further afield into Victorian England, then you get Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre.

Then take a look at something like Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, set in a post apocalyptic America, where the far (really far) right has come into power, and  is imposing stringent social norms and concepts of propriety, and throw into this a young woman who is basically a sex slave to a wealthy man, and a surrogate womb for his wife. This story is a definite human drama, but most people fail to see it as such, and focus instead on the trappings of the setting, and thus this human drama seems too far removed from us to really feel empathy for the character, but this story is not so different from that of Sold: story of modern-day slavery.

And there are many other examples of stories laden with human drama, where the characters (sometimes not even human) experience some of the most grueling emotional trials, with really profound questions involving things like male - female gender identity; love and family relations; abandonment, despair, betrayal, and sometimes (quite often) even what it means to be human. The only thing the reader has to do in order to experience all of these powerful emotions is establish an agreement of verisimilitude with the text, and suspend his or her disbelief of the setting, and just accept the fact that regardless of the way a house is put together, or on which planet it can be found on, it is till someone's home, and the dramas to be found within are as powerful as those of a Victorian house, or an American suburb, or an African hut.

What science fiction novel has touched you the most because of its human drama?