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The Female Man (Bluestreak) 1st Edition
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"Joanna Russ offers a gallery of some of the most interesting female protagonists in current fiction, women who are rarely victims and sometimes even victors, but always engaged sharply and perceptively with their fate." -Marge Piercy
"A stunning book, a work to be read with great respect. It's also screamingly funny." -Elizabeth Lynn, San Francisco Review of Books
"A work of frightening power, but it is also a work of great fictional subtlety. . . . It should appeal to all intelligent people who look for exciting ideation, crackling dialogue, provocative fictional games-playing in their reading." -Douglas Barbour, Toronto Star
About the Author
- Item Weight : 0.035 ounces
- Paperback : 224 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0807062995
- ISBN-13 : 978-0807062999
- Dimensions : 5.36 x 0.65 x 7.98 inches
- Publisher : Beacon Press; 1st edition (March 17, 2000)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #447,621 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The most intriguing sci-fi element is the concept of parallel universes with contact precluding one being part of the other. Unfortunately, the main story is compromised by the anger and hatred the leeches into nearly every page. Males are presented as a single stereotype; every male is every women's nightmare and the author sees no possibility of this ever changing. In addition, all females are the result of extrinsic, societal forces, while all males are inherently and almost genetically predisposed to entertain a single unchanging view of women. In short, female behavior is always reactive to males.
The future with only women is a bit of a paradox because the world is presented as a pastoral, agrarian, peaceful, idyllic land, but its survival is predicated on some pretty sophisticated science that is no where in sight. The future with a civil war is simply bizarre as there is no explanation for how this came to be and why everyone regards this state of affairs as normal. The author clearly sees no way for reconciliation between the sexes and believes that everything is one-sided.
The book eventually answers the “why”, but never the “how”, which I assume was not important to Russ, who basically uses the premise as a vehicle to explore the various ways men and patriarchy in general oppress women, as well as what a world without men might be like. Russ writes with genuine and furious anger, and while it might not be inaccurate to call it a radical feminist polemic, it’s not like she had nothing to be angry about. Her descriptions of how men often treated women (especially lesbians) at the time are depressingly accurate, and you don’t have to look too hard to see society hasn’t progressed all that far since then.
Russ’ angry feminism will obviously turn some people off for various reasons – even some feminists think Russ was over the top, and this particular book was TERF before TERF was an acronym (although to be fair, Russ later apologized for this). For me, the main problem with the book is that structure-wise, it's a mess – Russ is juggling four different narrators and it’s rarely clear which one is narrating. Maybe this is intentional in that they’re technically the same person, but it’s still confusing and makes it difficult to follow what’s going on and why, especially as they go from world to world for unclear reasons, and as though time travel and plane-hopping are no big deal in themselves. Still, there are a lot of good and interesting things in here that sort of cohere by the end.
NOTE: This particular edition includes her award-winning short story “When It Changed”, which was included in Harlan Ellison’s™ Again, Dangerous Visions and was written before TFM but is set in the Whileaway universe and features Janet Evason (the version of Joanna from that universe). I liked it, though I think reading the novel first helped me understand what was going on and what was at stake. Which is ironic given how hard the book is to follow. So it goes.
However, this book won some awards and was highly praised, so I blame the reader not the author.
Top reviews from other countries
Following the authors trains of thought (going in different directions), with vague (probably deep and meaningful) characters and jumping around was very unpleasant.
I love SF, I love feminism ... I could not read all of this book! (Only 3rd book in my life I’ve given up on!)