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The Margarets: A Novel Hardcover – May 22, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Full of fascinating characters and beautifully detailed settings, Tepper's complex and multifaceted far-future SF novel follows the many selves of Mars colonist Margaret Bain on a mission to save the human race from annihilation. Long ago, hairless bipeds earned the eternal hatred of the foul-tempered Quaatar after some prehumans stowed away on a Quaatar survey ship. Now humankind is at the brink of self-destruction through overpopulation and ecological collapse. The farsighted Gentherans have taken up the human cause within the Interstellar Trade Organization, but as Earthgov struggles to conform to ISTO's enforced sterilization laws while trading excess children for offworld water, the Quaatar continue plotting to destroy humanity. Only Margaret, a secret organization called the Third Order of the Siblinghood and the truth behind an old Gentheran folktale can stop the genocide and give humanity a future. As always, Locus Award–winner Tepper (The Companions) wields grand science fiction themes with skill, vision and a twist of black humor. (June)
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In her sprawling seventeenth novel, Tepper envisions humanity's existence in a crowded league with alien races as tentative. More-advanced yet ill-tempered extraterrestrials, such as the Quaatar, would rather rescue a perfectly good planet like Earth from its environmentally toxic parasites. To forestall humanity's wholesale extinction, Earthgov cuts a deal with the Interstellar Trade Organization by selling off 90 percent of its citizens as slaves and pets. One of the contract's unwitting victims is Margaret Bain, who, as the only child on the sparsely populated Martian moon Phobos, finds companionship by creating imaginary versions of herself as, for example, a queen, a warrior, even a boy. Each time Margaret faces a crisis, the other Margarets split off and grow to adulthood on other worlds. In the end, however, the separate Margarets must reunite, skills and experiences intact, to save Earth from ultimate destruction. Tepper's multiple worlds and story lines offer a broad canvas for penetrating cultural observations and for a spectrum of colorful characters, who enliven one of her most inventive novels to date. Hays, Carl
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A minor criticism might be leveled at "The Margarets" for being a bit busy for one book, especially in the who's-related-to-whom category. After all, we have seven Margarets to begin with to keep in the air (or on their respective planets). But then I look at Tepper's protean imaginative capacity, and can only sigh in envy. I find myself wishing that one book were three(like Kress's trilogies, for one example.). Next up for me is "The Waters Rising." Perhaps my desiring more length is a function of my escapist absorption in her worlds. Hardly a negative emotion.
The Margarets takes place approximately 150-200 years in the future. It mentions the years 2080 as being in the relatively recent past. The authors vision of the future is dystopian, with the humans having despoiled the earth and facing grim choices for its future.
Central to her vision is that humans need a 'racial memory' in order to advance to a higher level as a species. While I don't agree with this, she does develop the theme well in the book. Her other theme is the relationship of a people to their gods and religion - that we create our gods rather than the other way around.
All in all, I was sad when I had to put this book down. It was thought provoking with a suspenseful plot and likeable characters.
In fact, one thing that did strike me was that all of the characters mentioned by name were likeable. All the evildoers were identified only by their race or title. What does this say about the nature of evil? For example early in the novel we meet 'A Thongan spy', or 'The KFamir Chief Planner' All of the 'enemies' were vague and distant. There were a only couple of evil 'individual' in the novel per se, and very much in the background. Evil was generally performed only on a racial level. The K'Famir plot to destroy humanity was central, but only three K'famir in the whole novel have actual names. Basically, the evil that existed was mostly faceless.
Tepper is one of the best writers in the last 15 years; she uses fantasy
and scifi elements to produce fiction that combines sharp impact (her
books do not shun advocacy!), great adventure, and thoughtful social
and personal analyses, all in excellent style. It's rare to see someone
who is both a talented and skilled writer and a passionate advocate,
and perhaps even rarer to see advocacy (abuse of women, overpopulation,
thoughtlessly destructive behavior in general, these are Tepper's regular
targets) blended into page-turners.
The Margarets is a tour de force in structure and composition -- how do you
link 7 characters who are really 7 facets of the same person through time and
space to provide a coherent narrative? Read on and you'll find out.
The multifaceted civilizations, the very solid cultural setups, and the
suitably ominous destructive entities make for a colorful and suspenseful
read; the deeply detailed lives of the 7 Margarets give us an honest and
engrossing portrayal of a woman. And you may even learn something about your
favorite pet ;-)
Some of the setting involving more advanced races and less advanced races reminded me a teensy bit of The Uplift War (The Uplift Saga, Book 3) by David Brin. And the revelation of who has been orchestrating things for humanity reminded me a teensy bit of The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
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As the only child in the settlement on Phobos, Margaret develops several imaginary friends to entertain her.Read more