Review by WWEnder:
This has been on my ‘to-read’ list for what seems like years. The novel’s reputation does precede it somewhat as I’m aware of it’s consideration of being a feminist classic.
My overwhelming impression after reading the novel is that it’s a good novel in terms of plot and story – I found it was one of the novels I couldn’t put down once I started reading it. That said, I didn’t find it a ‘great novel’. The plot is fairly linear and the characterisation limited although that’s necessary for the book – it’s not a story that will stay with me forever.
That said it is a very powerful book and I think this is why it is a necessary read for pretty much everyone! Atwood wrote this in the mid-80’s against a landscape of increased Christian Right influences in US culture. What is truly frightening is that whilst the current US does not resemble Atwood’s Gilead we do see Religious groups informing policy in much of the West and certainly in the US. Likewise, the reproductive rights of women is still a ‘debate’ in some areas of the West. We can see shades of Atwood’s Gilead today in the West. We can see it’s stark realisation in many other parts of the world.
Many areas of the world oppress women to this day. Is Gilead any different from Taliban controlled Afghanistan and Pakistan. Do ISIS resemble Gilead? In much of the Islamic world from Saudi Arabia to Iran (whether they are a ‘friend’ of the West or not) women have no political rights, must cover their faces, are owned by fathers and men and their sexual identity repressed. Is female genital mutilation or the kidnap of girls in Nigeria that different from Gilead?
It’s not confined to the Islamic world either. Consider the sex trafficking of girls and women from Eastern Europe to the West, the sexual exploitation of girls and women in South East Asia, restriction to birth control in Ireland. In the West we quite often look at feminism through the lens of work and bemoan that women struggle to break the glass ceiling to positions of power. This is a classist position and considers the rights of well educated and privileged women above the millions of working class women. Gender politics often look at the experience of women from a middle class perspective. This ignores that working class women are oppressed significantly across the world – yes they can work (in low paid part time jobs), but they are still doing the cleaning, looking after the kids and getting tea on the table.
Gilead is a dystopian future but I do not think in the 20 years or so since this novel has been written that the lives of women across the world have improved very much, indeed it could be argued that things are worse.
I found the naming of the Handmaids particularly troubling (Offred meaning ‘of Fred’s’). This did make me consider though we still have similar conventions (my wife took my surname when we were married). I guess it is the use of the first name that personalises this ownership so much. Furthermore, that we never knew Offred’s real name. I so wanted to discover it. I wanted her to have a name and an identity.
The dehumanisation and categorisation of women was powerful. One can see a limited male perspective of women – a Martha for the cleaning, a Handmaid for the breeding and a Jezebel for the entertainment. How often do men roll these characterisations into one and call it Wife?
It’s a novel of immense power and the use of power. Offred describes power relationships in the book but realistically she does not have any. It’s an indictment of societies mores and rules which everyone has to follow (except those in power). That the Commanders who wrote the rulebook are the ones that ignore it is a particularly strong message.
Well worth reading.
One of the features that I’ve been missing on WWEnd’s blog has been the featured reviews. The amazing growth of the site with the RYO challenges and all the new awards and features has made it impossible for the administrative team to keep up with the amount of reviews that the site is now generating. I have volunteered to be a “review editor” of sorts.
What I want to do is put some of Worlds Without End’s exclusive reviews center stage on the blog. Many of you have your own review blogs and generate your own readers through various means. I want to feature those of us who are only posting our reviews here on WWEnd. (I’m not just doing this to get an audience. I have very mixed feelings about adding mine at all.) What I hope this does is bring some readership and conversation to these reviews that can be quickly pushed off the rolling list on the home page as more reviews are added.
As I said, I am only me, so if you read a good review that you’d like to see on the blog, send me a message through the message system on the forum page. Also, if you want to self-promote your own WWEnd-only review, drop me a note as well. I have created a forum page as well for more conversations and general questions. This is the link. I will put up the first review tomorrow.
WWEnd Top 25 Reviewers:
Last week, Worlds Without End passed 4,000 book reviews! You may recall that at the end of January we announced 2,500 reviews which kind of puts into perspective how fast our review database is growing. We’ve had over 1,500 reviews posted in just 8 months! Our hats are off to our 331 members who have put so much time and effort into these great reviews and we want to especially recognize our top 25 reviewers who have gone above and beyond.
Click any avatar on the right to find a list of all the reviews for each of our top reviewers. See our Books Reviewed on WWEnd list for all the books in our database that have been reviewed thus far.
Of course we know how you like your stats so we broke down the data for your entertainment and edification.
|Actual Books Reviewed|
|Total Books Reviewed||1,882||1,227||663|
|SF Books Reviewed||1,019||747||274|
|Fantasy Books Reviewed||729||375||360|
|Horror Books Reviewed||172||121||51|
|Total Authors Reviewed||736||430||306|
|SF Authors Reviewed||413||270||143|
|Fantasy Authors Reviewed||362||169||193|
|Horror Authors Reviewed||104||65||39|
Please note: The male and female numbers refer to the authors’ gender not the reviewers. Some of the numbers above don’t match up exactly because some books are listed in more than one genre and some books are co-authored by male and female authors etc.
Most Reviewed SF Books:
- Ancillary Justice (26)
- The Forever War (23)
- Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang (19)
- Zoo City (18)
- The Demolished Man (16)
- Doomsday Book (16)
- The Stars My Destination (16)
- The Dispossessed (15)
- Boneshaker (14)
- Childhood’s End (14)
- Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas (14)
- Rendezvous with Rama (14)
Most Reviewed Fantasy Books:
- Feed (23)
- Among Others (20)
- The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (18)
- Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (14)
- The Drowning Girl (13)
- Souless (13)
- A Wizard of Earthsea (13)
- The Best of All Possible Worlds (11)
- The Night Circus (11)
- American Gods (10)
- Dragonflight (10)
- The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (10)
- Perdido Street Station (10)
- Redemption in Indigo (10)
Most Reviewed Horror Books:
- The Graveyard Book (8)
- Gone Girl (6)
- Blackout (5)
- Coraline (4)
- A Discovery of Witches (4)
- The Girl With All The Gifts (4)
- Heart-Shaped Box (4)
- We Have Always Lived in the Castle (4)
- Abarat (3)
- The Between (3)
- A Dark Matter (3)
- Dead Until Dark (3)
- Drawing Blood (3)
- The Exorcist (3)
- Flesh Eaters (3)
- It (3)
- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (3)
- Red Dragon (3)
- Salem’s Lot (3)
- Servant of the Underworld (3)
- The Strain (3)
- Those Who Hunt the Night (3)
As you can see, Science Fiction book reviews lead the way with almost 1,000 more reviews than in Fantasy while Horror, which is relatively new to WWEnd, lags far behind with fewer than 300 reviews to date. I would have guessed our Fantasy reviews would be closer to even with our SF reviews so those numbers are a little surprising. There does not seem to be a whole lot of cross-over from SF/F to Horror but 259 still seems a bit lower than expected.
There is an interesting mix of old standbys and newer works in the most reviewed books lists. Ancillary Justice tops all books with 26 member reviews which is pretty amazing considering it came out just last year. I like that The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination, both with 16 reviews each and both personal favorites of mine, made it into the top reviewed SF list.
The most reviewed SF books list is an even break between books by men and women authors whereas the Fantasy list is all women authors aside from Neil Gaiman and China Meiville. The Horror list is more male dominated but it’s a much smaller number of reviews than the other lists. I wonder how that compares to other sites?
What do you make of these stats? What points of interest can you find in them?
Thanks again to all WWEnders for sharing their thoughts on the books they’ve read. I hope visitors to our site find these reviews helpful in finding great books to read!
Last week we reached a new milestone on WWEnd: 2,500 book reviews! You may remember we just celebrated our 2,000th review in September. Since that time we’ve been bringing in well over 100 reviews a month which is just amazing!
A good many of these reviews are the result of our reading challenges and our new Roll-Your-Own Reading Challenge promises to bring in more reviews than the 2013 Women of Genre Fiction did. After only 1 month we already have 55 reviews! The challenges have also been a driving force in bringing in new members who often bring with them a back catalog of reviews to share with us. We’ve got 88 new WWEnders for 2014, mostly for the RYO, and we expect that number to keep growing.
This is a great achievement for our community and we have to say thanks to all our members who have been contributing their time and talents to WWEnd. This is also a good time to recognize our top 10 reviewers. You can see by their numbers just how far above and beyond these folks have gone in supporting our community.
Oh, and the 2,500th review? That was submitted by none other than Charles Dee Mitchell, our number one reviewer by a long way, for Conscience of the Beagle by Patricia Anthony.
Thank you all again and here’s to the next 2,500!
For Lynn Williams (lynnsbooks) books are much more than a hobby or a pastime they’re really an obsession. If she’s not reading a book, she’s talking about books on her blog, Lynn’s Book Blog, or deciding which books to buy next. Lynn reads all sorts of books, sometimes straying into YA, but her first love is fantasy. Recently she started to cross into science fiction thanks to the suggestions of some very excellent bloggers.
Editor’s Note: This review counts for December.
Just finished reading The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo – talk about getting your last challenges in right on the last minute – this book is both my 100th book of the year and also my December read for Worlds Without End, Women of Genre Fiction reading challenge – can I just say what a great challenge the WoGF has been – sincerely I hope they hold this next year, I will be all over it if they do!
Anyway, moving swiftly on and away from my gloaty back patting self (the book review being the actual purpose of the post!) I do have mixed feelings about this book – which would probably resolve themselves if I had the chance to mull it over a little longer and really establish how I feel, but – deadlines are pressing – so, mixed feelings are what I’m going with on this occasion. Although, for clarity’s sake I certainly didn’t dislike this, just not quite sure about exactly what my emotions are at this point (did I love it, maybe not. Did I hate it – definitely not.)
The story is about a young girl, Li Lan, living in Malaya. Her mother has died and her father has retreated into the world of opium. As a result, and although she certainly doesn’t seem to have suffered any hardship having been raised mainly by her very loving Amah, her future does not seem to have been taken care of in the traditional sense leaving her with no future marriage prospects. Her father’s business has deteriorated, as you would likely imagine as he spends most of his time with cloudy eyes chasing the dragon, and, on top of that, he also seems to have run up considerable debts. Then along comes a marriage proposal of a most unusual nature. A very well to do family would like Li Lan to marry their son. Yes, it’s the old ‘attractive young girl marries into a wealthy family to save her own family honour’ chestnut. Or is it? Before we all start jumping to those conclusions – there’s a snag with this marriage proposal, just a tiny one, maybe not insurmountable to some – although I think I might object – the would-be groom has already passed away. Now, tell me that you’re not intrigued!
Allie McCarn (Allie), reviews science fiction and fantasy books on her blog Tethyan Books. She has contributed many great book reviews to WWEnd including several Grand Master reviews featured in our blog. Allie has just kicked off a new blog series for WWEnd called New Voices where she’ll be reviewing the debut novels of relatively new authors in the field.
“In the 21st century, the Earth is very nearly ruined. People live within domes or wraps, and most wear protective clothing to brave the toxic wasteland that the world has become. Most power resides with massive corporations, “multis,” who expect the indentured employees within their domes to shape their bodies, minds, and cultures to the company ideal. A small fraction of the Earth’s population are able to live in independent “free towns”, through selling their skills and products to multis, instead of themselves. The unlucky rest of humanity lives in the violent, poisonous “Glop”.
Shira Shipman has never embodied the physical or cultural ideal of her multi, and when custody of her young son is given to her ex-husband, she decides her future lies elsewhere. She returns to her childhood home of Tikva, a Jewish free town, where she has a new job aiding in the development of an illegal cyborg protector, Yod. As Yod struggles to understand his role in the world, he finds insight in a story of Prague’s Jewish ghetto in 1600, about a famous kabbalist who once created a golem protector.” ~Allie
Marge Piercy’s He, She and It is my final novel for WWEnd’s Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge. Marge Piercy is a poet and a novelist, and her works range from science fiction to other genres. I have read that her novels tend to focus on women’s lives, and He, She and It (also published as Body of Glass) is no exception.
Sue Bricknell (SueCCCP) is an ex-pat Brit living in Maine. She has no real memory of learning to read and has always had a great love of fantasy. She blames this on her early introduction to the Tales of Beatrix Potter, which she had memorized by the age of four. From an early obsession with Fantasy she has expanded her interests into the Science Fiction, Mystery, Horror and Crime genres. Joining a local book group made her realize that she really likes talking about books, so she began her blog, Coffee, Cookies and Chili Peppers. She has recently had the good fortune to be hired as an assistant librarian, so now she can think about books even more!
Martha Wells was an author that I had not come across until I read her Guest Post for Women in SF&F Month at Fantasy Cafe. Since then I have had her on my TBR list, but it finally took the Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge at Worlds Without End to put this book on my coffee table. I am only sorry that I ignored it for so long because it was a great read and I look forward to reading the other volumes in this series as well as more of Ms Wells’ titles when I can fit them in.
One thing I always appreciate in Fantasy writing is a world that is well drawn, whether it is loosely based upon Earth at some point in its history or is totally alien. Ms Wells creates a pleasantly unique world, inhabited by a wide variety of interesting creatures and races inhabiting the three realms. Although we do not explore the sea at all, we see several examples of the groundling races, which show adaptations to various habitats and climates. They also display a variety or temperaments, beliefs and cultures, which were sketched out with sufficient detail without a heavy-handed need for exposition. By making Moon an outsider in almost all situations, Ms Wells was able to let us explore this world through his experiences and so the world building did not feel forced or boring.
Steff S. (MMOGC), is an avid reader with an eclectic taste in books. While just about anything can catch her eye, she has a particular soft spot for fantasy and science fiction, and especially loves space operas and stories with interesting magic systems. Besides reading, she enjoys adventuring in the virtual words of MMORPGs, and first started blogging about games before branching out to contribute her book reviews at The BiblioSanctum with her friends.
I’ve long been curious about Ice Forged. Though I also own The Summoner from her Chronicles of the Necromancer series, for some reason I just knew I wanted this one to be my first Gail Z. Martin book. They’re both stories set in high fantasy worlds, but lands of ice and snow have always fascinated me, I don’t know why. Maybe because I think these harsh settings are often fertile ground for exceptional protagonists, driven to be harder in an environment marked by extreme temperatures and scarcity. I love to read about characters becoming shaped by those experiences and overcoming those challenges.
So it was a pleasant surprise when the book began by throwing its main protagonist into a situation that was even more harrowing than I’d expected. Blaine McFadden is convicted of murder, and though his reasons for the killing were honorable, the young nobleman is sentenced to live out the rest of his days in a penal colony on Velant, an icy wasteland at the edge of the world. Six years later, Blaine (now known as “Mick”) is a new man, emerging as a natural leader in the eyes of the other convicts and colonists. Still, they are kept under the thumb of an oppressive governor, and are at the mercy of the mages who are always too keen to administer their swift and often cruel discipline.
Nadine Gemeinböck (Linguana) has been reading fantasy for as long as she can remember. She started blogging about books on SFF Book Review in 2012, hoping to keep track of what she read and how she liked it. The book blogging community has since helped her open her literary horizons and thanks to WWEnd, she is currently working her way through NPR’s Top 100. Her blogging resolution is to review more foreign language books and finally take the plunge into a big, swooping space opera.
This debut novel is making waves on the internet like none I’ve ever seen before. It’s difficult to find a single negative review of this title, and – if you ask me – Ann Leckie is doing that whole promotion thing rather well. I came across her on many of my favorite online hangouts, doing interviews, guest blogs, tweeting and giving away signed books. But she always has interesting things to say, so buying the book was a no-brainer.
Boring as it may seem, I join the legions of new Ann Leckie fans. What a remarkable, memorable, thought-provoking novel.
Published by: Orbit, October 2013
Paperback: 432 pages
Series: Imperial Radch #1
My rating: 9/10
First sentence: The body lay naked and face down, a deathly gray, spatters of blood staining the snow around it.
On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren – a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.
An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose–to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.
Ancillary Justice is a fantastic book for many reasons, and these reasons change throughout the reading experience. I can only tell you how it was for me, although what I’ve seen on the internet so far, other people are intrigued by the same ideas.
Megan AM (couchtomoon) first discovered she was a SF nerd when a group of nerd boys sat near her friends in the school cafeteria and she overheard them talking about her favorite books and movies. Her friends noticed, too. Nowadays, when she is not managing crises at work, or hanging out with her gorgeous husband, you can find her curled up on the couch reading SF novels. She posts her reviews of these novels on her blog From couch to moon.
Lewis Carroll meets Anne Rice (the erotica years) in this surreal urban fantasy about four individuals who travel to the city of Palimpsest via a sex portal. Yes, you read that correctly: In order to visit the city, instead of going down the rabbit hole, you need to go down someone else’s hole.
Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente is an adult fairy tale in every sense, and not for the pearl-clutchers who may accidentally pick up this book expecting a story about medieval manuscripts. But, that’s not to say that this is a one-handed read either. Fans of the recent boon in erotic fiction probably won’t be satisfied, either. The sex happens in the real world, among ugly, destitute characters who view sex as an mere gateway, and sometimes obstruction, to their dream city. There may be a few titillating phrases here and there, but this is not erotica. Sometimes, the sex seems incidental, as if all the good portals have already been taken.