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Biting the Sun Mass Market Paperback – October 5, 1999

4.7 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Tanith Lee, winner of the August Derleth Award and several World Fantasy Awards, is best known as a fantasy and horror writer, but she has written several fine SF novels, two of which, Don't Bite the Sun and Drinking Sapphire Wine, form a duology now available in the single volume Biting the Sun.

The far future has brought freedom not only from material want but also from rules, responsibilities, and risk. You can change bodies and genders like clothes, make love with whomever you want, live forever, and kill yourself as often as you like. You can have everything, except a meaningful life. Then one day a restless soul discovers an act so shocking and terrifying that human society has forgotten its existence. --Cynthia Ward

From the Inside Flap

In a world dedicated to pleasure, one young rebel sets out on a forbidden quest--.
Published for the first time in a single volume, Tanith Lee's duet of novels set in a hedonistic Utopia are as riveting and revolutionary as they were when they first appeared two decades ago.
It's a perfect existence, a world in which no pleasure is off-limits, no risk is too dangerous, and no responsibilities can cramp your style. Not if you're Jang: a caste of libertine teenagers in the city of Four BEE. But when you're expected to make trouble--when you can kill yourself on a whim and return in another body, when you're encouraged to change genders at will and experience whatever you desire--you've got no reason to rebel...until making love and raising hell, daring death and running wild just leave you cold and empty.
Ravenous for true adventures of the mind and body, desperate to find some meaning, one restless spirit finally bucks the system--and by shattering the rules, strikes at the very heart of a soulless society....
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra (October 5, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553581309
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553581300
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #665,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Wow, what a great book. Originally two separate novellas, Biting the Sun was written in the 70's, back when Tanith Lee was writing exuberant, happy, bouncy stories with charming characters and wild plots. Her more recent writing is perhaps more polished, beautiful, and spare, but it's nice once in a while to read her earlier work, which make up in color and voice what they perhaps lack in streamlines and thoughfulness.
Biting the Sun takes place in a future trio of cities where no one ever dies, they just get new, personally-designed bodies. Read the previous review if you want a really good summary of the novel. The first part of the book, Don't Bite the Sun, is my favorite; it centers around the (forever unnamed) protagonist's strangling, suffocating boredom with *her* city, her life, her forced role as Jang--a young, drug-taking, factory-sabotaging, thieving teenager.
The second part of the novel, Drinking Sapphire Wine, is equally entertaining; it explains what happens to the protagonist when she breaks one of the city's few rules and chaos ensues.
The good thing about Biting the Sun is that even at its most depressing and unhappy, there's still a feeling of fun and hope in the novel that never goes away. Tanith Lee is at her most imaginative, and the book is worth reading for the hijinks and misadventures of the protagonist and her friends alone. The main character is engaging and easy to like, the supporting characters are equally entertaining and interesting, and to anyone who's read Lee's Unicorn series, the pink pet in this book seems to be a prelude to Tanaquil's peeve.
All in all, Biting the Sun is a totally fun experience, light and frothy, but not without true substance and thought-provoking themes. Lee's signature is that even in her lightest works she keeps the reader wondering and thinking and questioning; Biting the Sun is no exception.
Enjoy!
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By A Customer on December 14, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Although I have been a devoted Tanith Lee fan since I discovered her work sometime last year, I had only experienced her science-fiction work with "The Silver Metal Lover." I shamelessly adore that book; thus, when I heard that another of her earlier science-fictions was being reprinted, I both jumped to buy it and worried a bit about what it might be like. I shouldn't have even bothered to worry. "Biting the Sun" is fantastic.
The book is really two novels in one. The first, "Don't Bite the Sun," deals with traditional dystopian themes, all written in Lee's brilliant, colorful prose and enacted by a crazy and fascinating set of characters. From the beginning the story throws you off balance and pulls you in: come on, what other novel opens with its narrator committing suicide? In the futuristic city of Four-BEE a strict age-based caste system dictates its inhabitants' lives, particularly the lives of the Jang, whose adolescence seems to last at least fifty years. You can do anything when you're a Jang. Drink, do drugs, marry, have love, kill yourself, all as many times as you like in whatever body you prefer; the only thing you can't do is...stop being a Jang. Thus when the anonymous, mainly-female protagonist decides to rebel against Four-BEE, but it's hard. When nothing is forbidden, what can you protest? Apparently there's something, because the second novel, "Drinking Sapphire Wine," deals with the other half of the story: what happens when the narrator finally ticks off the Powers That Be and is exiled from Four-BEE. Although I understand that the books were originally published as separate works, they mesh seamlessly into one another.
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A soulless people living in an artificial biosphere in the desert. An advanced civilization turned in upon itself as it reaches levels of hedonism and depravity far surpassing that of the late Roman Empire. A picture of horror disguised as the ultimate beauty and pleasure.
Tanith Lee has created a world in which humans are the obsolete masters of a society so advanced that death itself is impossible. Life on the other hand is an endless pursuit of pleasure for plesaure's sake. No material possession, no experience cannot be had by the elite Jang class of citizens (you could even say it was considered their duty to experiment with play). Work is performed entirely by robot automatons so that humans can indulge themselves in whatever way suits their fancies. Want to try a new body? Commit suicide and come back with a different look, a different gender, antennae if you like. Nothing is criminal or forbidden save one thing: murder.
The depiction of this world ( called 4-B) and an unusual young heroine who dares to buck the system to find meaning in her life resonated with me. Seeing her exhaust every avenue available to her for true self-discovery was a painful and beautiful thing; eventually, she realized that there was something terribly wrong with a society in which God and morals had no place. Therefore, the only option left was to flee from the protection of the AI overseers and their sheltered paradise to become truly human and mortal at last. Reading this was like watching a soul being born.
The author was not exactly covering new territory in her plot line; it became obvious to me halfway through that this was a variation on the popular Biblical tale of the Fall.
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