Copyright 1998 by
I first read this on the 23rd January 2003.
By the twenty-fifth century, humanity will have spread
in a vast diaspora out among the stars.
On the largely-depopulated Earth live only the descendents of those
who chose not to go. They shun the old high technology.
Now they lack even the technology to follow their ancestors.
In Tober cove, Fullin is twenty-years old. It is Commitment Eve and
he is contemplating Commitment. This is the ritual that every
adolescent must go through to become an adult. Commitment is when
a person decides on their permanent sex. Until this time they
change sex annually, flipping between male and female, taking on the
full range of physical and personality attributes with the
Fullin however is still having some difficulty deciding whether to
be a man or a woman.
He doesn't know it yet, but before the night is out the gender issue
is going to be the least of his problems. There'll be terrible violence and
slaughter. Those that survive are going to have their beliefs, their religion
tested to breaking point.
I expected this to be a standard coming-of-age SF novel, but I was
surprised to find that it was somewhat more than that. There are
unexpected depths in the plot. Gardner's sleight of hand
skilfully conceals the core of this plot and frequently encourages
the reader to make the obvious but wrong assumptions. As the plot
unfolds, it is a pleasure to have one's assumptions overturned.
I enjoyed Fullin's pragmatic religious belief that overcomes all
evidential objections. Thoroughly refreshing.
However, this novel doesn't succeed as well as Gardner's Expendable
series. Those books are deliberately lightweight, and very
enjoyable. This novel is intended to be more worthy but struggles
hard to meet that objective.
Loaded on the 28th February 2003.