Today’s review of women writers of science fiction and fantasy includes N.K. Jemisin, Diana Wynne Jones, and Gwyneth Jones. If any of their work sounds interesting to you, please do check them out — and if you have enjoyed something by them that I haven’t mentioned, let me know in the comments.
“On the Banks of the River Lex” by N.K. Jemisin
I heard Jemisin read the opening of this story at Renovation this year, and I went and looked it up to finish reading it. This is The World Without Us or Life After People in a spec fic universe, one where the people are gone but our gods and fables have lived on — from Death and Sleep to Bodhisattva, the Dragon King, and nursery rhymes. Created from our thoughts, they need thought to keep going. They try to sustain each other, but there is feeling that perhaps they are only delaying the inevitable.
Death is the main character in Jemisin’s story, and we learn of his efforts — of all the efforts — to find meaning after the loss of humans, including his attempt to keep a cat as a pet, and the Twins’ brewing of coffee and baking of cookies.
It’s an interesting exploration of what we leave behind, what will last, and where hope lies. It’s also a commentary on purpose and being.
N. K. Jemisin can be found at her Website, nkjemisin.com.
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Perhaps this one’s cheating a bit — who hasn’t read and loved this book, or some of her other work? (And I must admit that I still need to read the Chrestomanci series!) Still, I do love rereading the story of Sophie being so obtuse. This story has it all — fallen stars, witches and wizards, a house that opens to many lands, people who want ordinary lives and people who want adventure, fire demons, people who want to love and people who believe they never will be.
Perhaps this will be the year when I finally read its sequels, Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways.
Diana Wynne Jones’s Website can be found at www.dianawynnejones.com
North Wind by Gwyneth Jones
I didn’t realize when I picked this up that it was the second book in the trilogy. Reading the first one would have saved me some serious confusion at the outset, as when I saw “Aleutians,” I assumed at first that I was reading about the Aleut people. However, the Aleutians are aliens who have their main base in Thailand, although the book opens at an outpost in Greece. Once I got that straight, things made a lot more sense.
When the major event going on in the world is called the Gender War and is being waged by Men (people of both biological sexes who believe in traditional roles) and Women (people of biological sexes who want a bunch of reforms, including better treatment and roles for biological females), it is no surprise that the book deals with gender politics. Add in the Aleutians, a species of hermaphrodites who are biologically connected to one another by “wanderers,” and things become even more complex.
The primary characters in this book are Sidney Carton, an Aleutian-lover who does not identify as Man or Woman, and Goodlooking/Bella, an Aleutian isolate, unable to communicate with other Aleutians on the biological/chemical level. When Men and Women join together to destroy the Aleutians (angered by the aliens’ desire to destroy the Himalayas and allow the cooling north wind to alter the climate of the subcontinent), Sid takes Bella away in an attempt to keep the alien safe and eventually return Bella to the Aleutian ship.
The interplay of questions of sexual identity, behavior, climatology, biology, and space travel makes a captivating tale. I’m going to go back and read the first book in the series (White Queen) before I read the final book in the trilogy (Phoenix Cafe).
Gwyneth Jones can be found on her blog at www.boldaslove.co.uk/blog.