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Book Review: Grass by Sheri S. Tepper (Series, #1) (Audiobook narrated by Dina Pearlman)


Book Review: Grass by Sheri S. Tepper (Series, #1) (Audiobook narrated by Dina Pearlman)Summary:

Generations ago, humans fled to the cosmic anomaly known as Grass. But before humanity arrived, another species had already claimed Grass for its own. It too had developed a culture……

Now a deadly plague is spreading across the stars, leaving no planet untouched, save for Grass. But the secret of the planet’s immunity hides a truth so shattering it could mean the end of life itself.

Review:
I wanted to say “I’m sure this was super progressive when it was first published” but actually it was first published in 1989 so….actually not so much. I think if I read this in print I might have flown through it faster and not noticed how kind of all-over-the-place it was but actually…it’s kind of all-over-the-place.

First there’s the weird backwards planet that for some reason has decided to revert to medieval European ways of being in spite of being settled at some point in the future when people figured out how to travel through space and colonize planets. Then we jump back to planet Earth which has been taken over by both Catholicism and some weird new religion that I still haven’t figured out but that seems to believe in saving the soul to computers? But also has forced monk servitude?

So some Catholics go to Grass (the medieval planet) because some evil flesh-eating plague is spreading all over the galaxy and Grass is the only place that doesn’t have it. Somehow Grass is blissfully unaware of the impending plague. The Catholic family consists of the mom who used to work helping people who didn’t obey the two child mandate, the father and his mistress, and their two teenagers (one boy and one girl and the girl is of course super sullen).

Then we have a long diatribe about this weird Fox Hunt the Grassians do using entirely alien species. Riding the aliens gives the women orgasms, and this is dangerous. I couldn’t help but feel like the author had some huge problem with horseback riding, and what is with that in scifi? HORSES ARE GREAT, SCIFI WRITERS. STOP WRITING THIS PLOT. Anyway so then somehow this plot of maybe the alien Fox Hunt is saving the Grassians from the plague takes a super weird religious turn involving morals and ethics and what are the aliens actually and the Catholic lady has some weird religious dream after she whacks her head and the aliens start attacking the humans and somehow they find a scientist/doctor person in the midst of all this who can help them with the cure yadda yadda. See? All over the place.

Ultimately it’s realized that this whole thing was basically Catholic lady’s mid-life crisis, and she finally comes into her own as a result of the whole thing and wow. I just kept thinking….who is so out-of-touch with themselves that it takes this whole huge interplanetary incident to sort your shit out? In the end I sort of felt like this is the book version of that random old lady you meet on the bus who talks to you through your headphones to tell you her “tragic” life story and you sit there nodding because you think she might be just a bit coo-coo and well her story is all-over-the-place but at least it’s moderately interesting and then at the end you realize her life has been awful because she is awful.

So…..if you’re a person who didn’t sort your shit out until mid-life and you have a lot of empathy for people who claim to be trapped by their own damn choices then you’ll probably enjoy this book. Also if you have some weird problem with horseback riding you’ll probably enjoy this book.

Why three stars? Because while I found it annoying and disappointing the plot was at least interesting, it was well-written on the readability level, and it was an audiobook but I read the whole thing, so I think that’s saying something.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

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Book Review: The Mount by Carol Emshwiller (Bottom of TBR Pile Challenge)

Man in reins and bit.Summary:
Charley is an 11 year old Seattle and wants to be the best mount there is for his owner, Little Master.  He eats his dry cakes, practices on the go-round, and behaves well.  Little Master mostly likes their lessons.  His ears wiggle, so Charley knows he’s giggling.  But one day Wilds attack the village.  They say that people are meant to be people, not mounts for Hoots.  But the Hoots say the mounts were made for them, see how the primate species are perfectly designed for riding?  It’s all very confusing for Charley.

Review:
It doesn’t take much guess-work to figure out how this wound up on my TBR pile.  It’s a rather obvious allegory for animal rights, although instead of apes enslaving people like in Planet of the Apes, it’s an alien species with cat-like ears and weak legs enslaving humans.  The concept is a good one, but the execution fell short for me, which is sad, because I wanted to love it.

The structure of the book is problematic.  The first chapter is from the perspective of an entirely random Hoot who we never see again. Ever.  We also never see his mount again.  This is just weird.  The rest of the book is told from the first person perspective of Charley, except for one random chapter narrated by his father.  I don’t mind switching perspectives, but there should be some sort of consistency about it, and we should have at least a vague idea who the character in the new perspective is.

I also found myself completely baffled by Charley.  In spite of being enslaved by the Hoots, he still wishes to use a bit one day and other things that drive his father nuts, and one cannot help but agree with his father.  He never seems to really learn better through the book either.  He persists in loving his Hoot and being a mount for his Hoot.  That doesn’t work as an allegory for animal rights or slavery.

Emshwiller does show how teenage boys clash with their fathers very well, however.  Charley’s relationship with his dad, Heron, is well fleshed-out and intriguing.  They want to connect and love each other but struggle with how, exactly, to do that when they are so different yet so similar.  Looking back, this relationship is what kept me reading.  It shines in spite of the other oddities in the book.

I won’t spoil it, but the ending bothered me as well, and I found it profoundly confusing.  In fact, I’d say for the book as a whole I am simply left perplexed by it.  I feel like I missed something or didn’t quite get an accurate picture of the world they are living in or something.

Overall, it’s a very different take on humans being enslaved by another species, but its execution is rather disappointing.  Recommended to readers with a marked interest in scifi depictions of human slavery.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

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