Science Fiction and Fantasy by Women Authors

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Antieau, Kim. COYOTE COWGIRL.

When Jeanne Flambeaux's family takes a vacation from their restaurant business, Jeanne ( the non-cook) plans to relax. But then a family heirloom ( a ruby scepter) is stolen. Jeanne must retrieve it, though she still has the crystal skull, who is a real "chatty Cathy." As she and the skull track down the scepter, she discovers lots of secrets about herself and her family. Lots of fun with some magical realism and a few recipes thrown in.

*Atwood, Margaret. ORYX AND CRAKE.

In a dystopian future of social inequality, genetic technology, and catastrophic climate change, Jimmy ( the Snowman) struggles to survive. He also observes the strange, new "children of Crake," who have been taught how to live by Oryx ( who was previously an abused young girl herself). Well written, with provocative ideas. Top notch, as usual. Bev recommends.

*Bear, Elizabeth. HAMMERED. Bantam. 2004.

Jenny Casey, a former Canadian special forces soldier, with many artificially constructed body parts, is tired, depressed, and just wants to be left alone. But a drug, probably created by a secret government agency, is on the streets, killing people she knows. Naturally,Jenny feels impelled to investigate, and soon she is being pressured to become part of a virtual reality research project that may or may not be related to the killer drug. Fast paced, interesting noir urban future, likeable heroine, and flashes of humor. Bev recommends.

*Bernard, Cheryl. TURNING ON THE GIRLS. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2001.

In this very funny novel, Bernard satirizes men, women, the feminist movement, bodice rippers and almost everything else. In the near future, women have taken over the world, put men in re-education classes, and are working hard to correct all of the sexism of the past. For example, Lisa is supposed to find more acceptable sex fantasies for women than the Story of O and romance novels about being raped by handsome men. Justin, her assistant , is to help her. But they also have been ordered to infiltrate Harmony, a men's group that wants to return to the "old ways." Then the real trouble begins. Sarcastic humor, great characters, including some likeable men, and some thoughtful comments on how women might change things. Lots of fun. Bev recommends.

*Czerneda, Julie E. SURVIVAL ( SPECIES IMPERATIVE #1). Daw. 2004.

Dr. Mac Connor's main interest in life is her research on salmon at the Norcoast Salmon Research facility. Admittedly, she knows her government has contacted extraterrestrials, but Mac has not paid much attention to it. Then Brymn - a friendly, 7-limbed, blue Dhryn- shows up and seems very interested in Mac. But another mysterious being, invisible and deadly, has also shown up. In fact, Mac's friend disappears. And Mac vows to find her - even if she has to go to Brymn's world and face many unknown dangers. Mac is a strong, sensible heroine. Brymn is appealing, and the Dhryn and Ro societies are well drawn. Very readable. Bev recommends.

Goodman, Alison. SINGING THE DOGSTAR BLUES.

17-year-old Joss Aaronson, a brilliant student who is always in trouble with the authorities, gets teamed up with an hermaphrodite Chorian, Mavkel. Mavkel's twin is dead, but it and Joss have some great adventures while each learns a lot about loneliness and accepting who one is. Excellent YA novel.

*Horsley, Kate. CHANGELING OF FINNISTUATH.

Gray, a 14th century peasant girl, was raised as a boy by her mother, so her father would not kill her. Then, when she becomes a monk's assistant and menstruation occurs, she is forced to accept the fact that she is a woman, subject to the terrible conditions women endured then. A very readable story of a young woman who had to recreate herself several times. Plus, she has to survive incredible poverty, the black plague, and ignorance. Like many Irish then, she was aware of the mysterious powers in the trees, streams, and the dark and sometimes trusts them more than the Christian God. So, this is history plus. Bev recommends.

*Johnson, Kij. FUDOKI.

As she waits for death, the Princess Harueme writes the story of a nameless tortoise shell cat who has lost her home, and her fudoki ( self and soul and shrine). The cat becomes a famous female warrior, Kagaya-hime, who is wiser than she knows, but who is never quite human. A fascinating, sometimes poignant story of a being who is very brave, successful, and respected, but who still believes she has no fudoki. Lovely Japanese mythology. Bev recommends.

*Kress, Nancy. CRUCIBLE. Tor 2004.

To settle the planet Greentrees, Jake Holman had brought together a diverse group of humans: the Cutler clan, Arabs, Chinese, New Quakers, Cheyennes. And, in spite of two warring alien groups, the Furs and the Vines, they have prospered in this new world. But now another ship has arrived from Earth, the Crucible, commanded by the handsome, charismatic Julien Martin. Suddenly, everything starts going wrong. Unusual aliens, and some perceptive thoughts about freedom, security, class, ethnic identity, and group psychology. Bev recommends.

*Marley, Louise. CHILD GODDESS. Ace. 2004.

While ExtraSolar Corporation is searching for a place to develop an improved energy source , on a supposedly uninhabited planet, it inadvertently kills one "alien" child and injures another. Isabel Burke, a priest of the Order of the Mary Magdalenes, is appalled by this news. Furthermore, the child has been brought to Earth and is being treated like a lab specimen. Burke finally gets guardianship over the child, but, in attempting to find out more about this culture, she discovers an even more appalling secret. Some readers may guess the truth before Burke, but this smoothly written novel has a fascinating alien culture, and the relationship between the child and Burke is very touching. Bev recommends.

*Moriarty, Chris. SPIN STATE.

UN peacekeeper Major Catherine Li has made 37 faster-than-light jumps, but she has paid for them with loss of memory and subjecting herself to the control of others. Now a physicist, who is her cloned twin, is dead on the ugly, often deadly world of Compson's World. Catherine has to find what is happening on Compson's World and why. Fast-paced adventure, fascinating world building, and an interesting look at the boundary between human and AI, not always easy to describe.Definitely hard sf. Bev recommends.

*Niffenegger, Audrey. TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE.
Henry ( a librarian at the Newberry in Chicago) suffers from Chrono-Impairment, a quasi-medical condition that catapults him from one random spot in time to another, with little warning. The jumps are sometimes life-threatening, as he is naked and often in unfamiliar places. But, on several jumps, he meets Claire, a lovely woman who is willing to accept his confusing unpredictable life. Obviously there is no science here, but there is a beautiful love story and a quite realistic look at what this kind of life would be like. Bev recommends.

Price, Susan. THE STERKARM HANDSHAKE.

A British corporation has built a time machine so it can procure 16th century gold and oil from the borderlands between England and Scotland. But the Sterkarm clan who live there at that time won't cooperate. Andrea, a researcher, is trying to study the clan, but she has fallen in love with the chief's son. When he becomes injured, she brings him back to the present to save him. However, a misunderstanding becomes a war. Unromanticized look at the pluses and minuses of living in the 1500's. Fast-paced. Good reading for adults and young adults.

Richards, Leigh. CALIFIA'S DAUGHTERS. Bantam. 2004.

In a near-future California, a small community of self-sufficient women lead satisfying lives. A virus has killed many of the men, so the few that are left are carefully treated and protected. Dian, the huntress for this group, is an extremely successful hunter, especially with her two majestic wolf or elk hounds. But, one day, people from another isolated village arrive, wanting to trade. However, Dian is suspicious and goes north to investigate. She finds other women have handled the men situation very differently, and she knows they could be a danger to her own pleasant community. Excellent account of post-disaster life. The varying treatment of men in the different enclaves is fascinating, and the impact of this unusual society on women is thoughtfully presented. ( Richards is Laurie King, well known mystery writer) Very smoothly written, if not extremely original.

Robson, Justina. NATURAL HISTORY. Bantam. 2004.

In the far future, humanity has diverged into two strains: the Unevolved humans and the Forged, a blend of machine and human. When Isol, a machine-human, finds an Earthlike planet, she claims it as a refuge for the Forged, who are not well treated on Earth. However, before anything can happen,Zephyr Duquesne, a human archaeologist, goes to the planet also to determine its suitability for colonization. There she discovers a phenomenon that threatens to change the nature of reality itself. Original, mind-blowing, and sometimes a challenge to read. Interestingly, a sentient chunk of gray matter called Stuff, may hold the secret. Recommended but not easy to read.

*Thomson , Amy. STORYTELLER.

On the planet Thalassa, history is passed on by storytellers. And many inhabitants, including the Storyteller, are telepathically bonded to harsels, great sea-beasts who offer transportation and friendship on this watery world. Now Teller has adopted a young street boy, Samad. He will learn storytelling, and he will also learn about the self-sacrifice,courage, and love of the harsels. This is a beautifully told story and another fascinating re-creation of an alien species. Great reading. Bev recommends.

*Traviss, Karen. CITY OF PEARL.

When tough, hard-nosed Environmental Hazard Officer Shan Frankland comes to a planet in search of a lost human colony, she finds a remnant of the colony, but she also discovers an intelligent aquatic race, the bezeri. And another mysterious race, the wess'har, apparently is around to protect the bezeri and the planet's fragile eco-system. And it appears that yet another race, the isenj, is trying desperately to colonize the planet. . Great alien first contact story. Shan is a terrific protagonist. Reminiscent of Tepper. Bev recommends.

Traviss, Karen. CROSSING THE LINE. Eos. 2004.

In City of Pearl, Shan Frankland had come to the rescue of a lost colony on a dangerous planet - a world coveted by two alien races and protected by a third. In this battle, Shan had become something more than human. She is now the carrier of a very powerful " virus." And it just so happens that another Earth ship is coming to the planet. Earth's government wants control of the planet, but they also want Shan Frankland's secret. Outstanding alien cultures. Lots of action, and Shan is a terrific hero. Really need to read City of Pearl first though to totally understand the action. Well done series.

*Wood, N. Lee. MASTER OF NONE. Warner. 2004.

Nathan Crewe only wanted to get some rare plants from Vanar. But he is betrayed by his helper, imprisoned, and eventually adopted by one of 9 ruling families. Now his difficulties really begin. Vanar is ruled by these 9 secretive, matriarchal families who live by incredibly intricate codes of conduct. Deviation from the rituals usually means death, especially for men who are, at best, concubines, and at worst, disposable slaves. And Nathan does not know the language or the codes. How can he survive? His struggle to do so is very well told. This is a well-written, detailed look at a strange society with lots of twists and turns in the plot. Portrayals of the subtle relationships between mistress and slaves are especially well done. Bev recommends.

AND I HAD TO SNEAK A COUPLE OF GUYS IN:

*Eugenides, Jeffrey. MIDDLESEX.

This is a coming of age novel of a hermaphrodite and his Greek family, ranging from the 1920's in Asia Minor to the present day in Berlin, with a long stopover in Detroit. Callie started life as a girl. Later he/she becomes Cal. It certainly bends our notion of gender, but it is also a story of an unusual Greek family, overflowing with emotion and humor. It has been called " an affecting characterization of a brave and lonely soul." Probably my favorite book of the year. Bev recommends

Knipfel, Jim. BUZZING.

Roscoe Baragan is a cynical reporter for a local tabloid. Generally, Roscoe specializes in drinking with his weird friend from the morgue, watching Japanese B horror movies, and checking out offbeat stories, like UFO abductions and alien invasions. But then a radioactive body is brought into the morgue, and no one will tell him anything. Wow! What if some of his stories are true? Is it possible that Godzilla holds the clue to this mystery? This is a highly entertaining, wacky story that could probably only be pulled off by Knipfel. Knipfel is originally from Madison.

 

by Bev DeWeese