Townhouse Books

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Gate to Women's Country / Sheri S. Tepper

In short: a post-apocalypse society of women are trying to rebuild civilization. Tepper is a well-known feminist writer, and she does an interesting thought-experiment in this one. Where is the line, and when do feminist utopias go to far? What happens when feminists become prejudiced in their own right? She's also a good storyteller, so even if the philosophical side of the book isn't your cup of tea, it's worth a read as good speculative fiction.

I'd love to hear what other people think of this book. I first read it a good seven years ago and thought it was really quite interesting. The society is intricate and well-imagined, and the first 100 pages or so just toss you into it without heavy exposition. Which I like. There's a sense of discovery, of secrets being revealed throughout the book.

What I didn't get seven years ago and am getting now is the heavy-handedness of this book. Characters have a tendency of becoming mouthpieces for the author, although this effect is slightly mitigated by the fact that several characters are government / philosophical leaders and it's therefore not entirely out of character for them to wax sociological.

What also struck me the second time through was that the book was less even-handed than I'd remembered. Overall, the radical actions that Women's Country takes are presented as tragic but necessary. Rather than tragic and wrong. And the book's take on homosexuality is just offensive. But I'd love to hear other people's opinions. And if you enjoy this sort of post-post-post-society gender future thing, try Elisabeth Vonarburg's Silent City / Maerlande Chronicles, too.

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  • "And the book's take on homosexuality is just offensive."

    How so? Is it that the book was written in 1993 and Tepper hadn't fully thought through this issue yet?

    By evt1618, at 4:38 PM  

  • It's almost like she wanted to side-step the entire issue. The book deals with that sort of traditional female/male gender split, so maybe she didn't want to muddy the waters. But basically, there's no real mention of homosexuality except for two or three lines where she lets us know that they found out a) homosexuality was due to some chemical imbalance during pregnancy and b) they found out how to make sure that chemical imbalance didn't happen anymore.

    They cured homosexuality through science!

    Even as I'm typing this, I'm wondering if it's enough to put me off the book forever. Not that science fiction doesn't come up with stupid crap, but to be so strongly feminist and then still come up with that kind of dismissive "Thank god we cured the gays!" sort of attitude...

    It was only a couple of lines, but it really bothers me.

    By lillygog, at 9:43 AM  

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