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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra (November 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553589040
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553589047
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,251,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this enjoyable, thought-provoking science fiction adventure, interspace ambassadors Vincent Katherinessen and Michelangelo Kusanagi-Jones have been sent by the Old Earth Colonial Coalition to the renegade planet of New Amazonia, a planet where women rule and men are kept as worker bees and house breeders. Because Old Earth treats its women as subservient, they have no female ambassadors, but Angelo and Vincent are gay—or "gentle"—and though they are shunned by the dictatorial government they serve, they're the only negotiators acceptable to the Amazonian rulers. The two men arrive ostensibly to return stolen art, a show of goodwill that will hopefully reopen long-stalled diplomacy between the two governments. In truth, they have been sent in an effort to secure, by any means necessary, the secret to the mysterious power source that runs Amazonia. Playing the deceitful powers against each other, however, Angelo and Vincent are really working toward an agenda of their own, one that will decide the fate of humanity itself. Like the best of speculative fiction, Bear has created a fascinating and complete universe that blends high-tech gadgetry with Old World adventure and political collusion. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Despite the scandal that clouded their last job together, AIs Michelangelo Kusanagi-Jones and Vincent Katherinessen have been reunited for a diplomatic mission to New Amazonia. Their ostensibly peaceful mission involves returning priceless art to previous owners, but they've also been sent to find out the secret of New Amazonia's seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy. One of them is planning to ensure failure, which will be a blow to the Coalition and also the terrible assessments of the AI governors. New Amazonia challenges them, for while its gynocentric society, though not completely beloved by all, makes their maleness a handicap, their relationship, which is illegal back on Earth, is the only thing that allows them to be diplomats on New Amazonia. More than human politics are in play here, though, for the city, which was left behind by an unknown nonhuman intelligence, has secrets to hide. Bear's exploration of gender stereotypes and the characters' reactions to the rigid expectations of a world of strict gender roles proves fascinating, as does her exploration of political systems gone too far in more than one direction. Her sense of pacing and skill with multifaceted characters prone to all sorts of confused motivations and actions also enrich this action-packed, thought-provoking story. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

I tell stories. I prefer the mountains to the desert, and rain to sun. My eyes are blue. I like flying on airplanes, but they keep making the seats smaller.

Customer Reviews

And what better recommendation can a book have!
amf0001
This all works very well together, in a story that makes the reader think, makes the reader mad (with perhaps some disquiet), and keeps the reader turning the pages.
Richard R. Horton
In sum, unbelievable world-building, unsympathetic characters, and bad writing.
Angie Boyter

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Richard R. Horton on March 14, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Elizabeth Bear's new novel is an exciting and twisty science fiction adventure story. Bear wields several fairly traditional (and not always quite so traditional) SF tropes with expertise: a female-dominated human culture, radical environmentalists killing off most of the Earth's human population, a dueling culture, transcended intelligences, AIs in control of society. This all works very well together, in a story that makes the reader think, makes the reader mad (with perhaps some disquiet), and keeps the reader turning the pages.

In a future after AI "Governors" programmed by radical environmentalists caused the depopulation of Earth, leading to colonization of a variety of other worlds, the Governors and the Earth-dominated "Colonial Coalition" are trying to re-integrated these worlds. Many years after a botched mission to one such world, New Amazonia, they have sent two diplomats to try again - and in particular to negotiate access to this planet's mysterious free energy technology.

The Coalition diplomats are Vincent Katherinessen and Michelangelo Kusanagi-Jones, secretly lovers who have been apart for years after their careers crashed. But New Amazonia's leaders will not negotiate with any but women or what they call "gentle" men. Homosexuality is generally taboo in the Coalition, and women are usually not allowed positions of power, so Vincent and Angelo are the best available choices. New Amazonia, we learn, is ruled by women. Men are kept as slaves, though in better conditions (for the most part) than say blacks in the American Antebellum South. Heterosexual males are matched in Trials: battles, often to the death, with the best chosen to be members of household, where they live in a sort of purdah. "Gentle" males are allowed slightly greater privileges.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By amf0001 VINE VOICE on March 4, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The best science fiction allows you to look at the world today with new eyes (I could never look at water the same way after reading Dune: years later seeing a hose pipe flowing into the street still makes me wince.) This book too, makes you look at familiar things in a new way. And what better recommendation can a book have! This is a really good find!

Slow to start, dense and thickly plotted, but then the characters and worlds click into place and it becomes wonderful! The plot moves a long but it is the world building that works best for me - looking at gender roles and alternate ideas of taboos and cultures. I loved it. Happy find!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Angie Boyter VINE VOICE on January 18, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
This was my first Elizabeth Bear novel. I was encouraged by the positive blurbs on her earlier books by people like David Brin and Mike Resnick. Perhaps I should have been warned by the absence of blurbs for this book....
I enjoy SF that explores unusual social setups, so my initial reaction to a book about a pair of male homosexual agents representing Old Earth to a female-ruled society on New Amazonia was positive. However, if an author spins a new society, it is his or her responsibility to make it credible. Neither society was very believable for many reasons, e.g., on New Amazonia the males are dominated by the women to the point of slavery. Yet these same males are bred for combativeness so that they will perform well in the ritual combats. Is it believable that such males will tolerate this dominance?
None of the characters is sympathetic or interesting or fully developed. I didn't care what happened to any of them. This makes it difficult to sustain interest in the book.
Finally, the book just does not seem to be well written. The author too often introduces new ideas or terms or refers to previous events without explaining them. This was so striking that several people in our SF discussion group asked if this was a sequel to another book because so much was left unclear. A good SF writer is able to set up suspense in a way that intrigues rather than annoys and to fill in any background necessary to help the reader envision the world that is created.
In sum, unbelievable world-building, unsympathetic characters, and bad writing. That is why I say the cover was the best part!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By lb136 VINE VOICE on September 12, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Elizabeth Bear ("Hammered," "Scardown," "Worldwired") now has written a standalone that intrigues on many levels. The setup's a stunner--on what's now "Old Earth," environmental cuckoos have created AIs called "The Guardians," which have "culled" most of the planet's population in the name of Greenness. Under the Guardians an apparently fascist governing body known as "The Coalition" rules. Humans, however, have managed to settle a number of worlds under the Coalition, and in the process have pretty much put women back in the kitchen.

Except, that is, on the planet called New Amazonia, where women rule and duel (heterosexual males are called "stud males" and are no better than slaves; homosexual males are called "gentle" and have more rights). The Coalition wants the planet's mysterious source of cheap energy so--not having women (which the New Amazonians would of course prefer) to throw into the fray--they send two gay men (former lovers at that) as ambassadors (make that spies) ostensibly charged with returning art taken from the New Amazonians, but actually to obtain, by hook or by crook they will, the source of the planet's cheap energy.

The two spies, Michelangelo Kusanagi-Jones and Vincent Katherinessen, each have their own agendas, as do the women who are members of New Amazonia's government, most notably Lesa Pretoria--a security chief for the government--who has her own view of things.

The story takes place during the planet's carnival, a word that, as a headnote tells us (and this proves important), is derived from the Old Italian carnelevare, which means "farewell to the flesh.
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