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.