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review 2017-03-10 17:07
The Gate to Women's Country / Sheri S. Tepper
The Gate to Women's Country - Sheri S. Tepper

Tepper's finest novel to date is set in a post-holocaust feminist dystopia that offers only two political alternatives: a repressive polygamist sect that is slowly self-destructing through inbreeding and the matriarchal dictatorship called Women's Country. Here, in a desperate effort to prevent another world war, the women have segregated most men into closed military garrisons and have taken on themselves every other function of government, industry, agriculture, science and learning.

The resulting manifold responsibilities are seen through the life of Stavia, from a dreaming 10-year-old to maturity as doctor, mother and member of the Marthatown Women's Council. As in Tepper's Awakeners series books, the rigid social systems are tempered by the voices of individual experience and, here, by an imaginative reworking of The Trojan Woman that runs through the text. A rewarding and challenging novel that is to be valued for its provocative ideas.

 

Very much a product of its time! Post-nuclear war, societies are sorting themselves out and we get to witness two ways of dealing with things. One is very, very matriarchal, the other over-the-top patriarchal. As I began reading, I started with the impression that I was exploring a very patriarchal set-up. Fooled me! Yes, the women and men live (mostly) separately and the women must present sons to the warriors to be raised in warrior culture. But women control almost everything else (medicine, agriculture, trading, education, etc.). Not very religious, but any references present are based on Greek mythology. Sex is viewed as healthy & desirable as long as disease is prevented.

On the other extreme is a community apparently organized much like the polygamist culture in Bountiful, B.C. and in Utah. Older men appropriate all the women & girls for their own “harems,” leaving the young men frustrated and angry. Sex is viewed as an evil necessity, but still avidly desired and “religiously” pursued. Very religious society, based on the Judaeo-Christian model.

Although the author does seem to favour the matriarchal culture, my impression from the book is that she wanted to show that NEITHER extreme is desirable and that both fail in crucial aspects. Perhaps influenced by Margaret Atwood’s excellent The Handmaid’s Tale as well as other post-apocalyptic novels of the 70s and 80s. A bit dated today, but worth reminding ourselves that we can co-operate together to run society fairly.

Book 247 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project.

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review 2017-02-15 07:15
Quick Reading Updates, Book Bingo, & Musings on Writing
Hellboy, Vol. 1: Seed of Destruction - John Byrne,Mike Mignola

 

I finished Hellboy Vol. 1 Seed of Destruction & loved every bit of it. I would have loved it even more, if there was more Liz to go around. The artwork is so beautiful but what do I know because I haven’t read more than ten graphic novels/comics in my life.

However, that is all about to change!

 

Currently Eyeing.jpg

 

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Another graphic novel that I am loving because look how pretty!

 

Almost done with Asimov’s Science Fiction: Hugo & Nebula Award Winning Stories, which is the book that got me thinking. At the moment, I am engrossed in one of the stories featured in it, Barnacle Bill the Spacer, by Lucius Shepard. It is so unabashedly geeky and based on barnacles that I had to stop and think. It includes chunks about Barnacle biology & yet I am loving it. It reminds me of my 5k-word long short story, The Better to See You With. Not being able to publish it so far, I have been thinking if its the science that is preventing its acceptance. Shepard’s story has given me hope. Now all I have to worry about is that it might not get published because it is a sucky story. Phew!

Book Bingo continues with my girls from work. We already finished one round of reading & rolled the dice a second time. Check out the categories that we included in that super-bad picture below:

 

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My teammate & I have complete our book for O i.e. New to You Author & are now looking for a book that will fit the requirements for N i.e. Non-Human Character. So far, I am looking at these three:

 

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review 2016-12-21 18:00
The Gate to Women's Country
The Gate to Women's Country - Sheri S. Tepper

Some scenes and characters I enjoyed (Morgot and Septemius more than the main characters, to be honest), but the oversimplification of the different societies described, as well as sexuality and relationships, didn't look very "feminist" to me. It was more a matter of "all men are brutes" (it never addresses how their upbringing between the ages of 5 and 15 in a garrison may be part of why they're violent), "all women are meant/want to breed" (I'm kind of feeling insulted here) and "homosexuality is caused by hormone imbalance during pregnancy, but it's been taken care of now, yay" (yeah, definitely insulted here).

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review 2016-10-09 00:04
"King's Blood Four - True Game #1" by Sheri Tepper - re-reading a classic
King's Blood Four - Sheri S. Tepper

I first read this book in 1985, in the UK, when the three short novels that make up the series were published as a beautiful Trade Paperback under the title "The True Game".

It had a huge impact on me at the time and made me a Sherri Tepper fan for life. "The Gate To The Women's Country" and "Grass" are still two of my favourite Science Fiction books.

 

I decided to refresh my memory of it by listening to the audiobook and see how I feel about it after thirty-one years. Sadly, there is no audiobook version, so I had to settle for Kindle, who sell the books separately outside the UK.

 

"King's Blood Four" was Sheri Tepper's first novel. although, at just over two hundred pages, it's a little short to be a stand alone novel.It introduces us to a world where those who have a talent for magic live in a many-layered hierarchy, determined by a taxonomy based on the type and strength of their powers, and spend their time waging "The True  Game", a ritualised form of  warfare, on each other.

 

Those who suffer most under this arrangement are the Pawns, normal humans with no powers, who's life force if often consumed by those with talents to fuel their magic

When I first read it, I was impressed by the breadth and the originality of the ideas and the refusal to accept that war is or should b,e a game.

 

Reading it again, I still found the ideas plentiful nnd powerful. I was struck by the way charisma is portrayed as magic that enables leaders to make followers love them while preventing their followers from seeing who they really are

 

This time around, I found the writing a little thin. The book seemed more aimed at young adult than I remember it and I found I was kept at an emotional distance by the detached, dispassionate way that Peter told his own story.

 

Perhaps, if I was able to erase my memory of my first reading of this book, I could come at afresh and rediscover my enthusiasm for the book and its ideas.

As it is, I won't be re-reading the other two books in this trilogy. I'd rather keep my memory in tact.

 

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review 2016-03-06 00:00
King's Blood Four
King's Blood Four - Sheri S. Tepper The storyline was something very different for me. The basic plot is that life is simply a chess match. Those that I would consider "noblemen" were called Gamesmen and had specific powers related to their position in The Game. The peasant-type characters were called Pawns and were subject to the will of the Gamesmen and could be sacrificed for the benefit of the play if necessary.

The protagonist, Peter, is a 15 year-old boy who's powers are just beginning to manifest due to the dire circumstances he finds himself in.

This book is more fantasy than science fiction and I'm not sure that it strictly meets the guidelines of the SF reading challenge but it was a recommendation and I went with it. The writing is well-done and the story is interesting and different.
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