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SINGER from the SEA Hardcover – April 22, 1999

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Editorial Reviews Review

Sheri S. Tepper has crafted a far-future fantasy that reads like the best of whodunits: murder, religion, treason, a mysterious ailment called batfly fever, interplanetary spies, true love, and planetary consciousness are the strands that make up this colorful tale. She limns the culture of this new world so skillfully that the reader never has cause to doubt its 1000-year history.

A nontechnology planet, Haven was seeded by one of the Ark ships that carried humanity away from a dying Earth. Purchased by a consortium of wealthy men who chose peace over progress, the planet and its people appear to be thriving--all except young noblewomen. In the millennium since Haven was settled, it has become a sad truth that these women often die in childbirth or shortly thereafter, while commoners flourish and produce bountiful offspring. Noblewomen are raised to live, marry, and give birth as custom demands, adhering to strict religious and cultural tenets, for they "have been taught that women are happiest in gracious submission to the covenants."

Lady Genevieve, motherless from a young age, experiences visions and knows that somehow she is fundamentally different from those around her--but how different she is may surprise even the most experienced Tepper reader. An ancient voice is calling Genevieve to her destiny, although her path continues to be unclear. Together with the gentle Colonel Aufors Leys, she pieces together a horrifying revelation that will change their lives forever--but don't fear: there is good and wonder mixed in here as well.

Singer from the Sea begins with a deceptively simple storyline and evolves into an ecofeminist tale of the struggle to save the women of Haven, and indeed the planet itself, from a uniquely hideous end. --Jhana Bach

From Publishers Weekly

On a planet covered almost entirely by oceans, two small countries lie side by side. The societies of both are carefully constructed around a single, deadly secret that only old men share. Those who don't know the secret can't imagine how deeply it affects their entire world, and those who do will sacrifice anything, and anyone, to keep things exactly as they are. Noble women, like Genevieve, do not live long. Most die in childbirth or soon thereafter of the mysterious batfly fever, for which there is an equally sinister medicine, P'naki. Genevieve's life, like all lives on Haven, is carefully scripted by the ancient Covenants, but her fate was arranged long before her people even landed on the planet, for she has been chosen to restore the natural balance of life and death. Don't mess with the "world spirit" or the great "Whatever," warn the followers of the planet's two mystical religions, but some men haven't listened, and now divine retribution is coming: Genevieve is to be the harbinger of the planet's transformation. This is a mystical, well-imagined feminist tale with enough hidden powers and intrigue to make it feel like a mystery. The societies that Tepper (Six Moon Dance) creates are frighteningly believable; her characters are multi-textured and full of life. Narrative flow slows because of repetitious dialogue in the novel's middle, but otherwise the storytelling is fluid and captivating.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Voyager; 1st edition (April 22, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380974800
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380974801
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,290,507 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 25, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
With sincere apologies to the great Isaac Asimov, there has never been
a better world builder than Sheri Tepper. And with further apologies
to Ursula LeGuin, no one handles gender issues and emotional
ambiguities better than Ms. Tepper. Her prose remains brilliant, the
plot is complex, and the character development extensive.
On a world divided into nobility and commoners, where women are slaves
and pawns, we find that the royalty has discovered a drug which will
give them extremely long lives. The story progresses as an
intelligent, but compliant young woman becomes trapped in the politics
of the creation and distribution of this drug, and ultimately, the
planet's future becomes balanced upon her acceptance of her own
Only Sheri Tepper, with her confident story telling, could
explore the nuances of such strong gender roles without lapsing into
modern American feminist diatribe. Her characters do not expostulate,
they talk to each other and we are led through their lives and through
their thoughts. It takes me forever to read through a Tepper book.
Her vocabulary is large, and her sentences are complicated. Ideas are
not thrust onto the page fully developed, rather they evolve with
precision through careful reading and attention to details. However,
like viewing a painting, the greatest pleasure is gained through slow
and careful attention to the work at hand. As you can tell, I highly
recommend this book. And if you can find "Grass" or
"Raising the Stones", you won't be disappointed.
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41 of 47 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 23, 1999
Format: Hardcover
O.K., so it's all been said before. I agree: Tepper's ideas get old. But (at the risk of being tendentious) whoever finds fault with male SF authors for repeatedly creating heroes who don't even measure up as bad adolescent fantasies, who tromp around their respective realms (physical and metaphysical) demanding homage on the basis of their strenghth and not on the basis of their use of it, who pass the time in proving their prowess and that IS the plot, who (like hobbyists) go about collecting lands and honors in order to collect more lands and and honors, and who pal around with advisory-figures who during said heroes' (rare) moments of reflection and doubt, assure them that everything they do is okay since "people are stupid" and have a lesson or two coming to them anyway? Huh? Nobody, that's who, and quite rightly, since many books of this description are roaring good reads, move along like houses afire, and manage the titanic feat of keeping track of two or more different chains of events which take place at different locations at approximately the same time. As nobody I know of reads science fiction for enlightenment (God help them if they do) that's about all one can ask of a science fiction novel; and at all the abovementioned tasks (namely: plot, pacing, world-construction) Tepper excels. Why, heck, she even WRITES well. Enough said.
Now, having come to Tepper's defense, I'm going to speak of what bothers me most about her. And what bothers me most about Tepper is her anti-technological stance; her notion that Homo Faber, the direct descendent of Homo Habilis the Tinkerer, is somehow always intrinsically, genetically criminal, just bound to be up to no good.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By bookjunkiereviews on December 23, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
First, this book really has to be read in one sitting (two hours or more, depending on your reading speed, and your distractions). Secondly, the story follows the usual Tepper formula, in that there are a number of men who are *really evil* (the motive differing from book to book) and the heroine of the story is a woman. Of course, not all men are evil in this book. I just thought I should warn the unwary reader, who may not have read any of her other books.
What I love about Tepper is the intricacies of the worlds and the myths she crafts. SIX MOON DANCE featured a remarkable creation and destruction myth (which turns out to be real), a mystery, and several non-human species. SINGER FROM THE SEAS makes the creation myth less explicit (because it has been forgotten by some of the people who should have remembered it), and there is a definite mystery developing.
The very basic plot is that Genevieve, a noblewoman and the daughter of a high-ranking military commander, is left motherless and is packed off by her father to school. There she is to be trained to be a suitable wife, in a rigid and apparently unchanging society where women have virtually no rights, where the mortality rate among young women is surprisingly high, and where young women of her rank are forbidden to sing.
In the first part of the novel, Genevieve is very naive but quickly learns more and more about the complexities of her society, becoming an accomplished hostess (completely unappreciated by her father). She also falls for a commoner, her father's equerry, but knows that marriage between them is not according to tradition. Even a strange request from an older relative does not completely shake her sense of security, although she does begin to question some incongruities.
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