2016: 27. The Gate to Women’s Country

“Stavia saw herself as in a picture, from the outside, a darkly cloaked figure moving along a cobbled street, the stones sheened with a soft, early spring rain.”

Sheri S. Tepper, The Gate to Women’s Country

My dear friend Eleanor sent me this book, as long as few others, noting that I rarely read sci-fi/fantasy, and said these books were particularly recommended by her sister.  I do rarely read those genres, unless, like Station Eleven, or Atwood’s work, they have a sort of literary bent.  But there isn’t really a reason, except for unfamiliarity with the genre, so I very, very much appreciated the gift.

And I quite enjoyed it! It took me a bit of effort to get into the book and the world (to be fair, I was reading it on an airplane, while simultaenously trying to keep my kids from screaming), but once I got the rhythm, I couldn’t put it down.  It’s sent in a post-apocolyptic world, in which most men live in camps as warriors, and most women live in women’s cities, centers of science and learning.  Any man is welcome to come live with the women - but few do.  So its a deterministic view of gender which is a little depressing, but there’s no doubt she makes it believable.  (and there are basically no gays or transsexuals, but then the book was written in 1988).  So the big themes are about men and women, and war, and violence on women, and those are pretty interesting stories for a sci-fi type book.  I really liked it, and would seek out more Tepper.

It’s not totally perfect - you need to take the gender stuff as a fable and not think of all the absolutely delightful men you know who would never be warriors (maybe they’d be the ones living in women’s camps?). And the plot jumps through time, which is fun, but I also lost the thread a bit at the end, particularly in regard to our heroine and her son.  But if you are interesting in dipping a toe in sci-fi that a) isnt too sci fi and b) grappeles with feminist issues, this is a good place, and as I said, I’ll be reading more from this author.

Thank you, Eleanor!!

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017