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Grass Mass Market Paperback – July 1, 1990

4.5 out of 5 stars 96 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Arbai Series

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--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Generations in the future, when humanity has spread to other planets and Earth is ruled by Sanctity, a dour, coercive religion that looks to resurrection of the body by storing cell samples of its communicants, a plague is threatening to wipe out mankind. The only planet that seems to be spared is Grass, so-called because that is virtually all that grows there. It was settled by families of European nobility who live on vast estancias and indulge in the ancient sport of fox hunting--although the horses, hounds and foxes aren't what they what they appear to be. Rigo and Marjorie Westriding Yrarier and family are sent to Grass as ambassadors and unofficial investigators because the ruling families--the bons--have refused to allow scientists to authenticate the planet's immunity from the plague. The egotistical Rigo sets out to prove himself to the bons while Marjorie remains wary about the relationship between the hunters and the hunted. She gains allies in her search, but invasion strikes from an unexpected quarter before the truth about an alien species comes to light. Tepper ( The Gate to Women's Country ) delves into the nature of truth and religion, creating some strong characters in her compelling story.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Sheri S. Tepper is the author of several resoundingly acclaimed novels, including the Arthur C. Clarke Award-nominated GIBBON'S DECLINE AND FALL, SIX MOON DANCE, THE FAMILY TREE, A PLAGUE OF ANGELS, SIDESHOW and BEAUTY, which was voted Best Fantasy Novel of the Year by readers of LOCUS. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Spectra
  • Mass Market Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra (July 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553285653
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553285659
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 4.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,087,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. Baker VINE VOICE on June 30, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I'm not a big Tepper fan but I read Grass anyway and I'm glad I did. The plot is rather intricate but a brief synopsis: Humans are scattered over several planets, one being Grass which is a backwater planet with an odd collection of so called "elites" living in a cultural milieu copied from English manors. The "commoners" are gathered in a large town and make a living mostly through trade with other planets. But rather bizarre things are happening in the universe. The catholic church as undergone a schism and the dominant branch is a rather bizarre organization called "sanctity." Meanwhile, a deadly plague threatens to wipe out humanity. But the plague has not touched Grass, so enter Lady Marjorie Westriding and her family, sent by the hierarch of the church to find a cure for the plague, believed to exist on Grass. But on Grass they also find bizarre goings on, mainly the strange aliens that seem to have some kind of hold over the populace.
Tepper has done an excellent job here of weaving an intricate plot together. There are numerous subtext to novels from relationships between men and women, alien contact, religious philosophy, and ethical decisions on how to react in the face of violence and potential genocide of the human race. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and depth of the novel. And unlike The Gate to Women's Country, the political and moral lessons are obvious but the reader is not bludgeoned over the head with them. This is one of the best science fiction novels I've read in a while.
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Grass presents a very interesting alien world, one where the entire planet is covered by grasses of various kinds except for small treed areas, with a very original set of aliens. The Hippae and their associated Hounds are the type of thing that can give you nightmares, an enlarged, horrific parody of horses, capable of mentally controlling those around them, with a totally egocentric and blood-thirsty attitude. And the human society that has formed around the Hippae is also intriguing, somewhat modeled on the South American estancias, but with a strong English manor element, as the humans use the Hippae as mounts for the Hunt, a direct parody of the sport of fox hunting, with the object of the Hunt being the Foxen, a creature never really seen in its entirety, but only glimpsed from the corners of the eyes. The ecology and relationships of the various species of the planet form the major scientific underpinnings of this novel, relationships that are somewhat surprising and very interesting.

Into this world come Marjorie Westriding, her husband Rigo, her children Stella and Tony, Rigo's mistress Eugenie, and the family Catholic priests, sent as ambassadors from Sanctity, the controlling religious body on Earth, to investigate why Grass is the only known planet that does not seem to be infected with a fatal plague that is slowly wiping out humanity. The novel's action is driven by the consequences of the family learning about the strange social structures and alien life forms of the planet.

While Marjorie, the main character, is fairly well drawn with a fair amount of depth, most of the other characters are very much stick figures that are supporting spear carriers only.
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Format: Paperback
"Grass! Millions of square miles of it... a hundred rippling oceans,
each ripple a gleam of scarlet or amber, emerald or turquoise... the
colors shivering over the prairies... Sapphire seas of grass with dark
islands of grass bearing great plumy trees which are grass again."

So opens Grass, Sheri Tepper's first fully-successful novel and
may be her best. My favorite, anyway

If you've read any Tepper, you'll have noticed that she takes a pretty
dim view of human nature, especially among men -- and of religion,
especially patriarchal religion. The standard Tepper themes are here --
of course, they weren't standard back then -- but handled lightly and
thoughtfully, with only a bit of the didactic ham-fistedness that mars
some of her later books. What I didn't remember about Grass is the
splendid sense of place she evokes -- Grass emerges as a fully-formed,
beautiful, and thoroughly alien world. The formative image of Grass,
to the Colorado-born & raised Tepper, is that of the American Great
Plains after a good spring, which is indeed an oceanic experience --
one that your Oklahoma-raised reviewer has shared, and misses.

Sanctity, the noxious world-religion of Tepper's Earth, is explicitly
modelled on Mormonism. Mormon readers ('saints') will not be
flattered -- though Tepper has exaggerated for effect. Sanctity is not
nice. At times it verges on cartoonish, but then I would reflect on the
banality of evil.... Tepper does a good job, handling evil. "Beauty" (1991)
is her masterwork of evil -- a remarkable book, but not for the
squeamish. "Down, down, to Happy Land..." Ugh.

The Hippae aren't nice, either.
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