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Shadow Man (Paragons of Queer Speculative Fiction) Paperback – October 5, 2009
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
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In the future, humanity has developed five distinct sexes due to the effects of a drug that allows faster-than-light travel. The Concorde worlds have officially recognized all five sexes, but on the isolated planet Hara those in between male and female are considered mutations who must choose to live as one of the two traditional sexes. When Hara regains contact with the Concorde worlds, it's an opportunity for Warreven--a "herm"--to break the long-standing role society has forced on him. But it will also put him in the center of a political battle that will span the stars. Shadow Man won the 1996 Lambda Award. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Political intrigue set in a far future that features a radically different human culture hinging on a multitude of genders is the theme of Scott's (Trouble and Her Friends) new work. The drug hyperlumin-A, which eases sickness from faster-than-light travel, has given rise to three new sexes?mem, fem and herm?each with its own pronoun system and stereotyped societal role. On the planet Hara, however, only male and female are legal roles, and the "odd-bodied" that form one-fourth of the population there must choose to act as one or the other. Warreven is a Haran herm, living as a man, whose personal history and work?first as a "clan advocate" arguing the legal cases of "players" who ply the "trade" (commercial sex), then as an elected official?lead him to oppose his world's policies. Scott's commentary on today's sexual politics is obvious, but she develops a rich, creative and consistent culture with its own family structures, social mores, religion and technology that will engage readers and likely return in a sequel.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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This book truly represents a coming of age but not for the main characters, for the readers.
Ms Scott creates an extended but simple metaphor: in a universe where there are five officially acknowledged and accepted biological sexes and a mathematitian knows how many combinatorial possibilities the law and custom of one single planet deny the biological reality in the name of an undefendible, aggressive, obtuse tradition.
It is easy to recognize our own little Earth and reality (despite intelligent crabs that are as affectionate as lapdogs, purr like kittens and spin useful silk) under this thin disguise; in the struggle of Warreven to be officially, legally recognized as a person despite his/her/who knows sex, one recognize the everyday problems of people who happen to be unlike the majority.
As a political pamphlet, an apologue, this book is a masterpiece and should be read as textbook in any secondary school; as a novel it is less so.
Ms Scott strives to mimic real life and she does it, perfectly, but the result is sometimes quite dull, just as our own petty lives can often be (think about commuting to get to work or boring evenings among collegues and you shall know what I mean).
The characters and situations are fully drawn and believable, and in the end the good does not win over evil, exactly as in our own lives.
Despite an appendix with a glossary, some fictional concepts, such as "trade" or the details of gender behaviour remain utterly unclear. Ms Scott has probably tried to avoid extensive boring explanations but confronted with such an exotic creation the reader must necessarily fill in the voids.
One may wonder, is this still SF? In a sense it is. Do not read this novel if you just want an easy SF pastime. Do it if you welcome food for thought and are in the right mood for it.
A note: sex is necessarily mentioned in such a book, but it is never graphic or vulgar: teens can read it freely provided they have the right attitude toward demanding books.
Over time, Warreven got involved in trade, which is legal prostitution, however he was not good at it, and instead became an advocate- an attorney who focused on defending intersex individuals and also prostitutes.
I really found the first beginning of this story fascinating. However, I did find the story's writing kind of bland. Even events which should be exciting were relayed in a really dry way.
Warreven gets dragged into running for a political office. There is a guy who has a bad implant in his arm who runs around complaining about it, and various of Warreven's friends fall victim to intersex-phobia and bad guys intent on quashing the intersex community. The writing style becomes very dry- and muddled. Characters pop in and pop out, and you have no idea who they are or what they are doing. There is a lot of casual drug use and ambivalence about human rights issues.
Warreven is an intriguing character- but I wanted him to have more of an active voice. I really wanted to root for him, and I wanted to feel more of what Raven felt in situations, and instead there is a lot of telling, not showing.
I would love to see a better writer tackle Warreven's world and this story- because it could be utterly fascinating. As it was I was left feeling frustrated by an interesting world and cool characters, but a writing style that failed to engage me.