A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.

Review: Carnival by Elizabeth Bear

Cover of CarnivalEliz­a­beth Bear suc­ceeds where David Brin failed in Glo­ry Sea­son. What would a woman-dom­i­nat­ed human soci­ety look like? How would it come about? Why? What, if any, role would males play? How would that soci­ety inter­act with more “tra­di­tion­al,” male-dom­i­nat­ed human soci­eties?

I don’t real­ly know if she set out to answer those ques­tions when she start­ed writ­ing Car­ni­val, but she did a good job of it, any­way. Her vision is hope­ful, but she does­n’t wear blind­ers. The char­ac­ters of the nov­el move as a mar­velous ensem­ble, the main fig­ures fleshed out believ­ably in their sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences.

Vin­cent Kather­i­nessen and Michelan­ge­lo Osiris Leary Kusana­gi-Jones are a cou­ple sep­a­rat­ed for near­ly 20 years by a repres­sive gov­ern­ment that does­n’t approve of homo­sex­u­al­i­ty. They are expert diplo­mats and spies, sent by their gov­ern­ment to New Ama­zo­nia1 to secure impor­tant tech­nol­o­gy by agree­ment or espi­onage. Old Earth and its Coali­tion are ruled by the Gov­er­nors, arti­fi­cial intel­li­gences pro­grammed to con­trol the pop­u­la­tion and its impact. Every­one lives under con­stant threat of being declared “sur­plus” and being “Assessed”—killed. As a result, there is strong pres­sure to migrate out­ward. New Ama­zo­nia is an attrac­tive plan­et with an appar­ent­ly lim­it­less source of clean pow­er, and as such it is a key tar­get for assim­i­la­tion by the Coali­tion.

Cover of HammeredLesa Pre­to­ria is a strong woman from a line of strong women. In her world, women rule and while men are not slaves, they are def­i­nite­ly sec­ond-class cit­i­zens. Men are sep­a­rat­ed into “stud” and “gen­tle” (homo­sex­u­al) class­es, with stud males sent from their fam­i­lies for fos­ter­ing and com­bat train­ing at an ear­ly age. If they per­form well enough in the Are­na to sur­vive, they have a chance at con­tracts with var­i­ous wom­en’s house­holds. The lives of gen­tle males aren’t explained as ful­ly, but they are freer than the stud males. All men must wear their “licens­es” in plain view at all times, and they are sel­dom per­mit­ted to go out unescort­ed. There is no men­tion of men own­ing prop­er­ty or office, or indeed par­tic­i­pat­ing in the gov­ern­ment in any respect.

Cover of ScardownBecause Lesa loves her bril­liant young son, she does­n’t want him sent to the Are­na. But he does­n’t seem like­ly to be gen­tle, and she has few legal choic­es to give him. She’s unusu­al in her world, in that she also has devel­oped a strong emo­tion­al attach­ment to Robert, the stud male who fathered at least two of her three chil­dren. She knows that there are sig­nif­i­cant fac­tions who want all males removed from their world, while oth­er rad­i­cal fac­tions would turn their soci­ety upside-down. She’s left to walk a tightrope, try­ing to pre­serve her fam­i­ly and soci­ety while work­ing for pos­i­tive change.

I great­ly enjoyed the world-build­ing aspects of the nov­el, and would love to read more of Vin­cent and Angelo’s adventures—from ear­li­er in their careers, per­haps?

Cover of WorldWiredLesa does ask, at one point, why a gov­ern­ment that is so focused on pop­u­la­tion con­trol would be so anti-homo­sex­u­al. Would­n’t it make sense to encour­age non-repro­duc­tive pair­ings? Angelo’s response, that peo­ple always divide into “us” and “them,” espe­cial­ly under oppres­sive sit­u­a­tions, makes as much sense as any­thing else.

Bear is one of my favorite cur­rent authors. I also read her Jen­ny Casey tril­o­gy this month. Ham­mered, Scar­down, and World­Wired are every bit as good as Car­ni­val. I strong­ly sug­gest that you have all three, and a good chunk of time to spend read­ing them, before you start the first.

1 When asked about the name of the plan­et, a native says, “What, you did­n’t think we had a sense of humor?” so I assume that it is intend­ed as a joke.

2 comments to Review: Carnival by Elizabeth Bear

  • OOooh sounds like a great read!

    Have you ever read The Gates to Wom­en’s Coun­try by Sher­ri S. Tep­per? It address­es some of the same issues, and also does it very well.

  • cyn

    I’ve read a fair amount of Tep­per, but not that one, odd­ly. I’ll have to check it out 🙂