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Broken Land, The Hardcover – September 1, 1992

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Mathembe Fileli and her family enjoy a nearly perfect existence in their native village of Chepsenyt, where her father raises trux, live organisms resembling trucks and used in heavy construction work, and her mother spins clothing, food and tools from basic DNA. Even Confessors and Proclaimersp. 8 , members of the town's two opposing religions, manage to live side by side; but when the town hides two Warriors of Destiny--guerilla fighters who oppose the Emperor Across the River--it is destroyed in a firestorm organized by the Emperor's soldiers. Mathembe, her family and the rest of the villagers are forced to flee. When her father is taken as a political prisoner, Mathembe realizes that she cannot turn for protection to her parents--or to her grandfather's decapitated-but-still-living head. From her shaky beginnings as a street vendor, she learns to rely upon herself in order to survive, and embarks on a painful journey to adulthood. Mathembe's world is a captivating one with its rampant biotechnology and passionate characters. But McDonald ( King of Morning, Queen of Day ), a lifelong resident of Belfast, also succeeds in presenting the religious and national conflict of an Ireland that still knows no respite from bloodshed.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

When the religious and political differences that divide the Confessors from the Proclaimers bring destruction to the village of Chepsenyt, a young Confessor woman begins a pilgrimage in search of healing for a land broken in spirit. Mathembe Fileli is a complex heroine, both victim and master of her destiny. Belfast resident McDonald ( King of Morning, Queen of Day , LJ 6/15/91; Desolation Road , LJ 2/15/88) transforms real-world politics into a rare and disturbing allegory that combines futuristic images with timeless conflict. This superb novel by one of today's most challenging visionaries deserves a place in every library.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 322 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra; No Edition Stated edition (September 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553089838
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553089837
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,420,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature.

Ian McDonald’s The Broken Land (Hearts, Hands and Voices in the UK) is a book I admired more than I loved. It’s an allegorical look at the horrors of civil war caused by religious zeal and division. The story is set in a fictional country that feels like it could be in a future Africa where biotechnology has led to the development of mechanical infrastructure that is part organic and part artificial intelligence. The citizens are divided by their religious affiliation — some are Proclaimers and some are Confessors. All are subject to the Emperor who lives across the river.

Our protagonist is a young woman named Mathembe who, because of her particular convictions, decides not to speak. Mathembe is a confessor, so she is skilled in the manipulation of genetic material to create new life. When members of her family die, their heads are attached to a huge tree where they are eventually absorbed into “the dreaming.” As the story starts, Mathembe’s grandfather has recently died and is in the process of being absorbed into the tree with the other ancestors. But when their village is attacked, Mathembe grabs her grandfather’s head and runs. All of her family members eventually get separated and her brother joins the rebel fighters. The rest of the story follows Mathembe as she tries to find and reunite with her family. She experiences many of the struggles that civilians encounter in war-torn lands — homelessness, hunger, refugee camps, disenfranchisement, and most of all, loneliness.

Ian McDonald uses the plot to thoughtfully explore many issues associated with war, prejudice and oppression, to show us how our differences divide us and cause much human suffering, and to suggest that there is much more that unites us than divides us.
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By Stella Nera on August 10, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Beautiful prose, fascinating world-building, allegorical without being preachy. Perhaps my favorite of his books that I've yet read.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By N Boren on August 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
McDonald swept me away with his unique view of organicals amidst a futuristic world of modern day conflicts. I fell in love with Methembe, the lead character, from the beginning and the undertones of spirituality kept this novel alive. I highly recommend to anyone interested in a hard sci-fi novel.
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