Divine Endurance Mass Market Paperback – April 1, 1989
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- Item Weight : 4.8 ounces
- Mass Market Paperback : 232 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0812542819
- ISBN-13 : 978-0812542813
- Dimensions : 3.8 x 0.45 x 8.45 inches
- Publisher : Tom Doherty Assoc Llc (April 1, 1989)
- Language: : English
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Bottom line: A painful, sad meditation on what it would mean for humanity to be given what it needs--not what it thinks it needs--to be entirely at peace.
Trigger warnings: Rape implied (in the past, not of a main character), shaming of barrenness, forced castration, prostitution out of need and social ostracism, child slavery, drug abuse, death of main characters, loss of a significant other, racism with resulting persecution and genocide, kidnapping, sex with a partner who appears to be a minor (looks 15 years old but is actually much older)
How does it treat women/same-sex relationships? In the novel's post-apocalyptic society, women are the governing heads of society, ruling in seclusion. Men have no power in government and carry out day-to-day tasks, look pretty, and practice the arts. Castrated men, called boys, take care of menial tasks. Neither boys nor men are treated poorly, but it's clear they're lower on the social totem pole than women. F/m sex is controlled by the governing women. Young women have sex with assigned partners when they come of age. If they bear children, they're accepted into the governing body of women; if not, they're considered failed women and ostracized. Tensions between the genders are still very strong and in many ways identical to those of the present day, except in reverse. Same-sex love seems to be accepted and not frowned on, whereas different-sex (sexual romantic) love seems to be taboo, beyond the sexual encounters prescribed by the government.
Does it have explicit sex scenes?: It has non-explicit sex scenes, in which f/f couples initiate sex and then fade to black.
Would I read it again? Yes. It's fragile, sad, and horribly bleak, but it also has a thread of hope in it.
Would I publish it? Yes. I'd ask for Jones to clarify a few passages where I wasn't certain which characters were doing what.
This is an enormously sad book. In the post-apocalyptic future, only a small portion of humanity clings to life and civilization (the novel is set in a far-future version of the mainland and island countries bordering on the South China Sea). Divine Endurance, a bio-engineered cat android, and Cho (short for Chosen Among the Beautiful), the last of a line of androids/gynoids designed specifically to make people happy (no matter what the cost), leave the dead factory in which Divine Endurance raised Cho and travel out into the dying world of human beings, searching for Cho's brother, Wo (Worthy to Be Beloved). Divine Endurance and Cho discover that the last of humanity is on the edge of war with itself--and how can you make so many hurting, despairing, yet desperate to survive people happy? Cho imprints on Darveet, the last survivor of a royal household that once rebelled against the matriarchal government, taking Darveet as 'her person,' the one particular person she will try hardest to make happy. As a barren, 'failed' woman, someone who simultaneously yearns to be part of the women's secretive government and who sees fatal flaws in it, and as a mixed-race woman, half of the genetically-mutated hill outcasts and half of the genetically-managed royal blood, Darveet's desires are more than complicated and less than definitive. Together, she and Cho meet other women (and men) who strive hard to hope and work for their world's survival.
For me, as someone who lives with depression, this book captured the hopelessness that comes with depression, but on a civilization-wide scale--that sense of what does it all come down to? Why not just give up and let it be over? Why does it all hurt so much, for so little? It's a rough read, but a poetic one, with an ending that doesn't shy away from the book's themes but which didn't crush me with its bleakness, either. If you're sad and need catharsis and a sense that someone understands how deep and bad it can be to feel as though everything you could ever do is futile, this is a good book for that; if you're sad and need something to take your mind off of the fact, this isn't a good book for *that.*
It's worth reading. I've never read a novel about the slow end of the world that might follow the fast end of the world of a global apocalypse--the end of the world that would still take hundreds of years to sputter out, with human beings trying until the last minutes of the species to keep going.
This is my second book by Gwyneth Jones. I decided to pick up Divine Endurance after being extremely impressed with Bold As Love. Sadly little known in the US, Jones is an award-winning British science fiction and fantasy author. She is justly famed for her inventiveness and the quality of her prose. Divine Endurance was her first novel.
This post-apocalyptic Indonesia is an amazing and real place-- full of myths and shattered shards of society. Cho, her brother Worthy to Be Beloved, and the mysterious Divine Endurance are relics from the disasterous past-- angel dolls which act as a catalyst for change in the struggling world.
If Divine Endurance has a flaw as a novel, it is largely that the world and the characters are better developed than the plot. It reminded me in many ways of The Etched City, by K.J. Bishop, although I think that the Jones book is ultimately more successful.
If you are looking for something unusual and are a fan of dystopic or post-apocalypse science fiction (China Mieville, Sean McMullen) then I suggest that you give Divine Endurance a try. Certainly if you are a fan of any kind of intelligent science fiction or fantasy, then you should become familiar with Gwyneth Jones.
Drawn to the cover (I'm a devout cat person) and intrigued about the locale (I've been drawn to that part of the world ever since it was used by Poul Anderson to create his off-world setting for Earthman Go Home) the deal was sealed by her great prose style and the sense of wonder she creates.
In no way predictable, but in every way plausible, this is a book to treasure and re-read (as I have done, with a reading copy.)
Somehow I've bought but have not yet to any Ann Halam books, but anything by "Gwyneth" goes right on top of the on-deck list as I've loved her rock and roll quintet, The Spirit of Bois Dumont, and her great books of criticism.
Top reviews from other countries
The story starts by following the main character, Chosen Among the Beautiful, and her Cat, the titular Divine Endurance, as they make their way through a landscape of fractured, bomb-blasted wastelands, ruined temples and war-torn, poverty-stricken cities. She is on a quest to find her lost brother, Worthy to be Beloved. Along the way she becomes involved with the fallen aristocrat, Derveet, who in exile has taken on the role of a kind of Amazonian warrior-princess, determined to free her people from their subjugation under the mysterious Rulers.
From the outset the tone and style is more that of high fantasy than science fiction. The prose is quite stylised and in places I found it a bit of a slog. There are too many characters for my taste and they all seem to have at least two names. At times things can get very confusing. This appears to be deliberate, however. The Cat, which is far more than just a cat, leads us through the more stodgy parts and we begin to feel that she is actually in charge of the other characters' destinies. But this is the kind of story wherein no presumptions are safe. There is a strong feminist theme throughout, with almost all of the characters being female and issues of gender being addressed head-on. At no point does this become preachy, however, and it's all very relevant to the plot.
Overall, this is an enigmatic and compelling read that is truly novel, while remaining artfully within the twin conventions of science fiction and fantasy. The latter is the reason for the missing star. Not any fault on the author's behalf, I just prefer straight-up sci-fi. Having said that, I highly recommend Devine Endurance to anyone with an interest in either genre, especially if they're looking for a challenge.