fortressofthepearl

According to its  original publication The Fortress of the Pearl is 8th in The Elric Saga but The Michael Moorcock Collection and Wikiedia places it chronologically second, after Elric of Melniboné and Other Stories, and if, like me, you are reading in chronological order this is Elric’s first big adventure.

I was going to say that this is a better start than Elric of Melniboné but I’m not sure it is. Elric of Melniboné is an exploration through several short stories (and a comic book script) of how Elric became who he is, but here a lot of it that background is implied or mentioned only in passing. I’m not sure it would have the same impact on the uninitiated. You’d still have fun reading it but some the weight would be removed.

Elric crawls towards the city of Quarzhasaat, after trekking the southern edge of the Sighing Desert, and having run out of herds that give him vitality he is near is near death. He is rescued by an entrepreneurial boy who sells his skills for a deadly price. One that can be paid by recovering the pearl of the title.

Moorcock makes it look easy. Elric’s task of finding the Fortress of the Pearl and then the precious pearl  sounds simple but Moorcock uses it to explore reality, dream, expectation, wish fulfilment amongst other things.

So far in his adventures’ Elric’s journey’s have had a strong spiritual element. This differs as he’s not travelling into some dream/reality past he’s going into another construction of a dream. Here he is without his usual knowledge and instead gains a guide, Alnac Kreb  whose philosophies revolve around Balance pulling Elric away from his usual Chaos though not completely towards its opposite Law.

There is a sword and sorcery element but it doesn’t revolve around his vampiric sword, the Stormbringer, but its influence can still be heavily felt, and Its addictive qualities are paralleled through Elric’s struggles with an elixir he is tricked into taking.

As he is guided towards the pearl he gets to see how an ancient city of an enemy has attempted to rewrite his race and their empire from history and at the same time building up the myth of the pearl into something which can bestow real political power.

For all this it feels very traditional though not overlay familiar and certainly not stale. It combines the right mix of thought and pure adventure though part of me wanted Moorcock to lose some more the traditional scaffolding and for Moorecock to risk freewheeling a little more..

It is a solid adventure for our hero, though as we see at the end, he’s a hero still that doesn’t hold back when embracing chaos.

I’m on a roll and ready to read The Sailor on the Seas of Fate

speedydeath

Alastair Bing’s guests gather around his dining table at Chaynings, a charming country manor. But one seat, belonging to the legendary explorer Everard Mountjoy, remains empty. When the other guests search the house, a body is discovered in a bath, drowned. The body is that of a woman, but could the corpse in fact be Mountjoy? A peculiar and sinister sequence of events has only just begun…

Speedy Death is the first novel of sixty six to feature Gladys Mitchell’s detective Beatrice Adela Lestrange Bradley, a polymathic psychoanalyst and author, and it sets the model for the all the other ones I’ve read so far. Though it also introduces an aspect of Mrs Bradley’s character that I didn’t (and probably wouldn’t) have known without reading this. I won’t spoil it but it definitely makes her stand out from the Miss Marples of this world.

The body in the bath is a unlocked door mystery where no-one seems to have a strong alibi. This really isn’t a spoiler as the body and the unlocked nature of the room are revealed by the end of the first chapter. What is clever is how Mitchell spends the next 322 pages rattling round the same country house with the same core characters without it feeling drawn out.

The strength of this book is how Mitchell keeps presenting each character for analysis, which giving us time to get to know them and to consider whether they are the murder. Mrs Bradley is, interestingly, placed off to the side though you’d think that being a guest she’d be in the perfect position to snoop and inform the readers in reader.

Instead, another guest instigates the investigation and draws Mrs Bradley into their confidences but having her become interested does draw her into the judgemental gaze of the police. You can see that Mitchell is challenging usual conventions of disbelief like the one where the police accept help without placing any suspicions on the helper.

What is particularly sweet is the other characters reactions to finding out that the male Mountjoy and the women in the bath could be the same person. Not one of them made that the issue, which is unexpected 1929. The setting makes a contemporary version of this novel unrealistic but I feel that today’s grittier writers would make it a source of conflict.

I love the unexpected nature of Mrs Bradley, she’s a bit of unwanted guest here, as it does make herself very useful and indispensable at key moments.

Honestly it ticks all the cosy crime boxes. If you’re a fan of cosy crime or clever mysteries please do give it a go.

Next up in the series for me: The Longer Bodies.

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I can’t shake the impression I have that science fiction is going to be dry (or that fantasy is going to be some pseudo-medieval Royalty with magic). I know better. I’ve read so many books that aren’t those things and I keep waiting to be proved right. I think you’ll agree this is madness.

The only reason I mention it is because Slow River is anything but dry and dusty. It’s complex, emotive, and daring. It leaves a mark, which is one that I want from the SF Masterworks collection. I do want them to leave a lasting impression after I’ve read them as much as I’d like them to be worthy of being put on a pedestal. Obviously, the reasons for elevation vary, historical importance being one, but impact for me is the thing that keeps me exploring and Griffith definitely has that.

Lore’s troubled life is presented through three different timelines: childhood, recent past and present. The present is told in the first person and the flashbacks are told in the third. Actually, it’s unfair to call them flashbacks as they are threads that weave to let the reader know how Lore Van Oesterling, daughter of one of the world’s most powerful families, ends up with a thief and predator like Spanner.

It raises one big question: What would you do to survive? Lore’s new life with Spanner does make for uncomfortable reading. The depths that Lore descents to in order to pay off the debts owed to Spanner, who rescued her when she was dropped naked and injured in the street after her kidnaping, is a long way to fall.

Lore’s first meeting with Spanner is described in the recent past thread and in the present she starts a job, which is several levels below her knowledge and skill, but is also safe from scrutiny, that is until she has to out herself to her suspicious boss or risk the lives of her co-workers.

Getting to know Lore at these differing points, her childhood being probably the saddest, makes for a powerful exploration of who she was and who she has to potential to be. The ease in which Griffith presents the rightful normality of the same-sex relationship that Lore and Spanner share is to be commended, though if it wasn’t as self-destructive then there would be no drama. It’s the dynamic of their relationship, rather than the sexuality of it, which makes it dangerous.

There is a under-representation LGBT characters in speculative fiction in general and having Slow River as a SF Masterworks is a confidence boost especially as Griffith doesn’t shy away from the the darkness which Spanner subjects Lore to, there is romantic sex and depraved acts (due to their impact on Lore rather than the acts themselves), but all are shown with the same respect to the characters and the story that Griffith has set out to tell.

Part of me is jaded by stories of impossibly rich people because it removes layers of reality and replaces them with an easy fantasy but this story used that difference to good effect as even in those scenes where the ‘reality’ of wealth is too distorting Griffith keeps it raw. She shows the ways  Lore’s parents use their children as pawns and how naivety can obscure the reality of the situation. If you’re wondering why doesn’t Lore just leave or go back to her family? Well that gets explained and, as in this life, going back isn’t that simple.

Griffith leaves the ‘best’ revelation until last and makes it the most gut-wrenching moment though that’s not the only one you’ll have. This story has several moments where facts shift your understanding. I’m tiptoeing around so much of what makes it a powerful and essential read but I really don’t want to say to much more.

Slow River deserves its place on the SF Masterworks and needs a slightly higher pedestal just to make sure it’s not overlooked.

Read it.

theghostridersofordebec

In Commissaire Adamsberg Fred Vargas has created one of my favourite detectives. There is something about his unorthodox methods and his obsessions which makes him endearing. It helps that Vargas has injected his squad with plenty of their own idiosyncrasies such as having an unending stock of food hidden away, being an unstoppable impossible force (you’ll have to read to find out what this means) and a detective who often speaks in verse. You also get to see the bonds strengthen with his newly discovered teenage son – who has changed a lot since we first met him.

But it’s Adamsberg who everything centres around which makes it a wonderful, if sometimes confusing, read.

This time his reputation attracts a mother from Normandy, well away from his jurisdiction, whose child has seen a vision of the ghost riders and since the middle ages their appearance has signalled a grisly end to murderers, rapists and those with serious crimes on their conscious. The mother is worried that people will die and impresses how much she needs the help that only  Adamsberg can provide.

The Ghost Riders of Ordebec marks Adamsberg’s seventh appearance and there is no sign that Vargas is tiring. She gives three cases for her detective to solve; the affect of the rider’s  appearance; a lad who may have falsely accused of torching a car with the driver still inside; and  the cruelty to a pigeon. Through these cases you see Adamsberg’s methods and his team in different lights. Most strongly felt is the camaraderie and loyalty he brings out in all those involved.

Vargas is one of those writers you need to trust and as mentioned in my review of An Uncertain Place I went through the same feelings with that one as I did with this.  Vargas is very skilled at placing obscure and seemingly unrelated details down in the first section of her novels though this does make it feel very foggy and slippery. The problem with this technique is that if it wasn’t for Adamsberg (or from reading her previous work) you might not feel you have a guide you can trust.

But then suddenly the fog clears and you can see the path and know that Vargas has been you leading you quite a merry dance. That’s not to say that you’re being tricked because Adamsberg is as much in the dark as you are as a reader and it feels that you are both finding out together. Though Adamsberg’s clockwork is hidden so you don’t known everything he does but you can still hear the explanatory ticks.

Siân Reynolds deserves a special mention for doing the translation work and making the whole thing flow. I always used to worry that that a translation would mean clunky and second-rate prose but Reynolds (as have other translators of other works) has made it feel seamless.

In conclusion, unlike many other detectives, Adamsberg’s compassion for those involved makes this serious alone a good read but when you see how clever Vargas is of putting unseen information in plain sight it becomes compelling. I’m yet to come away from her novels without feeling I’ve ‘won’ something. I  really hope you we get another.

Midnight Crossroad

There is something comforting about Charlaine Harris’s writing style and that bleeds through into her characters. My first exposure to Harris was her Sookie Stackhouse short stories from A Touch of Dead  and then the first two Aurora Teagarden novels. The reason I mention this is that Midnight Crossroad mixes Harris-the-mystery-writer and Harris-the-urban-fantasy-writer.

Reading the Aurora Teagarden books you wouldn’t think that there are any supernatural elements in the world and reading Sookie Stackhouse you’d think their presence was quite normal so I wasn’t sure which way Midnight Crossroads was going to go.

You don’t have to get more the than the preliminarily pages to know that this one is going to have a strong supernatural thread as Harris gives a mini-introduction into four of her main characters: Manfred an internet psychic (also minor character from her Harper Connelly Series), Fiji an owner of a magic shop with powers of her own, Bobo a pawn shop owner and Olivia who catches a lot of flights.

Told in the third-person we get to spend time with several of cast and get to know all the major and minor characters enough to feel their lives are real though, because the people in Midnight all tend to have their secrets, a lot of who they were before moving to Midnight remains a bit of a mystery. However, that doesn’t stop Harris feeding us with tidbits of what may come later.

And knowing that Harris has chosen to bring characters from her other series into Midnight (I spotted a Lily Bard namecheck (does that mean Bobo is a Lily Bard character?)) compelled me order all her other series (Stookie Stackhouse, Lily Bard and Harper Connelly) in an very bad moment of bookish OCD because I love authors who explore their worlds in different ways (it’s one reason I love Asher’s Polity). It’s another reason I need to crack on and read the second book of the Kings’s Dark Tower but I digress.

Unlike other reviews I’ve read I don’t want to say whose body is found but that moment turns this into a mystery and it doesn’t happen until we’ve established our feet under the table with a most of Midnight’s residents. From that moment on Harris picks up the pace though still remaining calming in her style does some quite brutal things which means I can’t label it as a ‘cosy crime’ story.

I admit to getting a little uncomfortable with the nature of the ‘big bad’ here and I think that it’s going to to appear again as the series progresses but Harris handles a real world-concern well and it is needed to shatter the cosy bubble Midnight could become without it.

Harris makes the sense of community a priority and having Manfred with the outsider eyes and outside questions makes a good conduit for the reader. He’s likeable, in fact everyone is likeable in some way even the scary characters (both those in the community and the ‘big bad’). It does take a little while to settle (fifty pages or so) as we get to know some of the characters but we have a scene at the local restaurant, this brings most of the main characters together, and sets up most of the dynamics, which Harris then cements quite rapidly.

Overall, Harris succeeds in bringing her comforting style, her love of the supernatural together with her skills as a mystery writer to make a Midnight Crossroad into a pleasurable and enjoyable read. You have characters you’d like to spend time with and care about but you are also dying to know what other secrets they are hiding. I can’t honestly wait for my my next visit to Midnight.

The Cold Commands

It’s worth pointing out that an audio book gives a different feel to book, so really I’m reviewing Richard Morgan’s writing and Simon Vance’s performance of it, and it is a performance, Vance gives each ‘voice’ a different inflection to bring them to life. And I’m praying that he’ll be asked to read The Dark Defiles  as I’m really not sure what I’d do if he didn’t [luckily he is]. From that you must know that I’m invested in the lives Ringil Eskiath, Egar the Dragonbane, and Archeth Indamaninarmal and their fate.

And fate there is as by the end The Cold Commands sets our characters in places they wouldn’t have expected to be in at the beginning, which made the last quarter or so quite a surprise, and had me scrambling to find two hours listening over 24hrs to finish it.

At the the start it’s not clear where you are going. This does require an act of faith to push through as it feels like Morgan knows you already know and love these characters and will follow them regardless of where they end up but he doesn’t really give a sense of direction.

To be fair the characters aren’t sure what they should be doing either and each of them is eventually pushed or pulled into some sort of action – Ringil is freeing slaves, Egar is bored and does a bit of breaking and entering which gets him into more trouble that he could possibly imagine and Archeth is sent to retrieve a helmsmen, who brings with him promise of her again meeting her people.

The Cold Commands does several things that make it ‘different’ or at least outside the ‘norm’ and reading Brit Mandelo’s tor.com review reminds me that a few of them really should be highlighted.

The sequence is called ‘A Land Fit for Heroes’ but who are our heroes? Ringil is probably the most surprising being not only gay but also a gay man whose intimate relationships with two minor characters are supportive rather than destructive,which is unlike The Steel Remains where the close relationship is destructive for him and the wider world and it comes back to haunt events here.  Archeth is struggling with restraint over her own desires and whether a slave girl is an expectable release. And finally, Egar’s own intimate relationship causes danger to all three though it is also a linchpin in strengthening the relationships between them.

I love The Cold Commands for that alone as there is no neon signposting. The sexuality and the problems that brings feels like an extension of the characters and I’m glad that Ringil’s relationships especially don’t ‘punish’ him.

Not that this novel a romance, it has another side shown in some dark and brutal moments. There is a rape scene, which is  rightly disturbing, and its inclusion shows a lot about the world in which everything takes place and is also telling about the characters involved and how they react.

There are a lot of soul searching moments, especially Ringil’s as he transverses the Grey Places, but each of the trio gets focus and attention, and for a middle book in a trilogy it goes deeper and further than just  treading water until the next book’s third act big finale.

Morgan likes to linger on the fights and the sexual scenes, often giving a blow-by-blow account, which I guess makes this ‘gritty’ or ‘dark’ and not for squeamish or prudish. Though I do think it’s important  that it never feels gratuitous; the fights especially have consequences. And often war ‘heroes’ are glorified by others, which are quickly earthed by Egar’s and Ringil’s putdowns.

There is also a turning of the tide here. We see the struggles that the ruler Jhiral Khimran II has in keeping power and how he keeps blocking the damn against the religious furore of the Citadel. I quite like him as character because of who he is and why he does what he does. He has a charm that comes from his scenes with Archeth and even though she’s a lot older than him he often feels much wiser. Though he s brutal and unflinching as well (and here Vance’s performance plays a strong role).

Speaking of Archeth, even she isn’t safe from Morgan’s callus hands. Outside influences extend to even her. But I’ll leave it as that to avoid unneeded signposting or spoiler inducing.

As I said at the beginning, it’s not clear at the start what to expect and I don’t want to flag those moments too much as their revelation makes you rethink a lot of earlier moments and makes a reread or re-listen in my gave something to look forward to.  But I will say that by the end Morgan has prepared the ground for something big. And the point where you hear ‘the cold commands’ will make a shiver run down your spine.

The Cold Commands uses traditional fantasy tropes and stretches those conventions to cover places they normally don’t reach. The main characters should be hard to like but they have plenty to hook your sympathies and understanding especially as their hearts are in the right place as storms gather around them. Honestly The Dark Defiles can’t come fast enough, though at last report it’s 50% bigger than this one and pays of debt due, but I’m nervous about how much Morgan is going to tear into the hearts of our characters.

Vance, as always, does a startling performance, and it always makes me chuckle that the dwenda sound welsh. His portrayal of Jihral especially sets the right tone and the helmsmen sound alien and disturbing. I could honestly listen to him read the phone book. Though with The Dark Defiles being half as long again I hope his voice holds out.

Days of Blood and Starlight

There is no way of getting around it. This is a love story. You see, once upon a time an angel and a devil fell in love and imagined a new way of living and so far that dream has caused both of them nothing but pain. At least that was how Daughter of Smoke and Bone ended and in Days of Blood and Starlight that feeling continues.

Not so strangely in the US this is released through Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and I’d place it, if labels are important to you, in that YA category. Though saying that if you’ve read the first book then you’ll know what to expect and the labelling will be irrelevant.

Please though don’t let the YA/love-story elements  put you off the idea of reading it but read Daughter of Smoke and Bone first. Laini Taylor is telling a big story through the relationship of Karou, currently almost human, who is trapped into rebuilding an army (by placing saved souls in newly formed bodies) and Akiva, an angel, who along with the rest his kind, has the sole mission of destroying Karou’s race.

In Daughter of Smoke and Bone there was a stalemate of opposing armies (Angels vs Chimera) with neither side gaining ground which was then shattered and we deal with the aftermath here. Laini Taylor isolates her two main characters and shows the conflict from their opposing sides but they both have their own internal conflicts, not only in their personal relationships, but the role they play in the war.

And for a story which has two heavy threads Taylor has a light touch with both giving you enough of each to keep you wanting to know more rather than wanting to stick with one or other. Saying that though the plotting and the conveniences in events aren’t so smooth. But somehow that doesn’t matter because if you’ve made it this far and become reinvested in their plight you’re happy to follow along even wishing some scenes would end before anything too horrible happens (Taylor on the whole doesn’t pull back on those).

I like Taylor’s take on angels being the more horrible of the two and that the ‘beasts’ are mostly defending themselves though that view is harder to stomach with some the events now gathering little sympathy in their retaliation .

But each time we see Karou and Akiva representing a different way. It’s not a spoiler to say that things get worse and not better throughout Days of Blood and Starlight and part of me missed the sense of fun that was strong element in the first book, mostly it is missing because Karou doesn’t spend time with her friends, though the scenes where they do make an appearance brings back that lightness before again being swallowed up again by the dark.

 

Overall, rather than turning sickly sweet Laini Taylor takes us to a darker place than the original in this sequel but at the same time giving hopes that everything is not doomed just before raising the stakes at the last minute.

Luckily Dreams of Gods and Monsters is out in a few days so I don’t have long to wait to see how it all ends.

mitchell_mystery_of_a_butchers_new

When Rupert Sethleigh’s body is found one morning, laid out in the village butcher shop but minus its head, the inhabitants of Wandles Parva aren’t particularly upset. Sethleigh was a blackmailing moneylender and when the peerless detective and renowned psycholanalyst Mrs Bradley begins her investigation she finds no shortage of suspects. It soon transpires that most of the village seem to have been wandering about Manor Woods, home of the mysterious druidic stone on which Sethleigh’s blood is found splashed, on the night he was murdered, but can she eliminate the red herrings and catch the real killer?

Gladys Mitchell’s Mrs Bradley is a wondrous creation. She’s gnarled, rich and wickedly humoured. She’s also interfering. These qualities makes her a perfect candidate of a detective. And like Christie or Doyle Mitchell was quite prolific.

To give you an idea Vintage have already published 13 books featuring this devilish detective and and this month are going to be releasing 20 more (4 normal paperbacks with 16 as print on demand and all are available as ebooks). They’ve been coming out quite sporadically up until now with Vintage choosing their favourites before filling in some gaps.

This is to explain why I’m now reading Mrs Bradley’s second appearance (my next read is the first  the series Speedy Death) but from the ones I’ve read so far it doesn’t seem to matter what order you read them in as Mrs Bradley doesn’t have any development but is more a mechanism to let the other characters kill each other and then nose around until she finds the murderer.

I read this one in two parts. The first half I read last year (around Halloween) but I picked it back up a few days ago and devoured the rest. Partly what I struggled with in the first half is the habit Mitchell has of dropping you into a scene with lots of dialogue but not grounding you in the scene by having the characters give some context to the scene.

It’s not something I struggled with from reading her other books and I think Mitchell got lots of  opportunities to practice her technique. But maybe it was me as well as I was much more comfortable with the cast of characters and what was being described when I picked it up again. Maybe it just took some time to get up to speed? As for the murder itself as it says in the blurb it looks quite simple but pinning it down takes Mrs Bradley some time.

The cast of characters here is entertaining with their personalities all quite different. Mitchell is great at exploring motivations and giving them layers of problems and interest so that no character feels like a cardboard walk-on. And when I got to the end I was annoyed in a good way as Mitchell manages to keeps you on your toes. Mrs Bradley is no goody two-shoes and the ending proves it.

As a book which is 84 years old you may think it would have dated but it doesn’t really. It doesn’t have modern obsessions with gore, flawed detectives, and its glamour is understated rather than gaudy. It feels classical if that makes sense.

I honestly can’t wait to see where Mitchell places Mrs Bradley next.

Alms Vol I

A review in 200 words or fewer:

This is an example of judging a book by a cover and trusting Vintage Classics.  I’m glad I did as between the comic-book art covers of Alm For Oblivion Volume 1 are four short interconnected novels.

It opens with The Rich Pay Late: Jude Holdbrook has a proposal for his business partner, Donald Salinger, for their advert distributor business to buy a magazine called ‘Strix’ so they can grow their empire. We follow how Jude persuades Donald and how successful they are at this endeavour.

It delves into the lives of the rich and privileged. Simon Raven is quick witted, great with dialogue and able to turn scenes on a pin. It’s like reading a scandal unfolding. I got invested in the characters and their dramas and their various connections. Raven gives all of them a nice story arc and the ending is satisfying and ties things off nicely with people getting what they, more or less, deserve.

All this was unexpected as I usually need a murder or man with a sword or a nice spaceship to keep me interested. This had purely Raven to keep me going.

I liked it a lot.

Anyone have any similar works they’d recommend?

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Should we read older SF? Gollancz seems to think so. Their SF Masterworks line has, for the last 14 years, highlighted SF classics and kept them in print. This series of posts is here to try to do two things. One to expand this authors’ knowledge of classical SF, especially eighties SF, and secondly to ask the question are classics worth reading?

So far on my short journey in the SF Masterworks Challenge  I’ve encountered a man who changed himself, another man who changed himself and the world, aliens who want to change everyone and so it was time for something different. I wasn’t exactly expecting horse-riding but that’s what I got. Well, at least that’s what I thought I had for the first 40 pages of Grass.

Now female authors and SF come in for a hard time, Sheri S. Tepper is one of a handful of women writers that that make up the SF Masterworks list (though there are many deserving authors out there), and, honestly, starting with a hunting analogy may put off people, that includes me btw.  With the threat of a deadly plague wiping out humanity across the universe and seemingly Grass being left untouched I couldn’t understand why we were spending so much time focusing on a quasi-fox-hunt.

But the third chapter takes the reader away from Grass to Terra or more accurately Sanctity (being the ruling religion of most of humanity) and at that point things, for me at least, got more interesting.

The whole book starts to slowly open up and moves away from a story that would have had a smaller audience into one that that grows in scope to draw in social hierarchy, identity, immortality, morality, wrong assumptions, reality, religious rule and ancient civilisations to name a few things.

Let’s start with assumptions: the whole point of the beginning is to set ‘norms’ in place for the reader – the aristocracy of Grass, known as the bons to the commoners of the planet, go on hunts and for the most part that is all they seem to do. There is something odd about the arrangement. The native mounts and hounds appear when needed and they have foxen to chase but how has something so English translated to an alien planet and its creatures so easily?

Well, it doesn’t, but the reader nor those that have been sent from Sanctity know the truth yet and I’m not doing to spoil it too much because part of the enjoyment for me was seeing Grass unfold and seeing my narrow views and those of some of the characters unfurl.

The bons of Grass don’t give free access to roam around – visitors are limited to Commoner Town and commoners limited to there or the villages on the bons’ states. No one goes roaming freely on Grass. Well, they can but they’re unlikely to ever come back and the only way to travel is aircar, unless you’re on a hunt.

This restriction seems natural as they don’t want the various grasses destroyed. Everything seems normal to those on Grass, at least from bons’ point of view. But when we get to experience other views, mainly via Marjorie Westriding-Yrarier,  we discover that things aren’t what they seem.

And Tepper excels at looking below the surface and showing us what we’ve assumed was reality. She also looks at the fear that religion places on those under them and the fear of losing control. And being in control is one the themes of Grass or more precisely letting people think they control you is.

Grass rightly has a place as a SF Masterwork so trust that the set-up is positioning you to have your assumptions challenged.