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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews


Copyright 1994 by Gwyneth Jones

SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Mediocre (2/5)

I first read this in 1997.

The aliens have arrived and they intend to stay. These "Aleutians" are masters of the biological arts and instead of machinery they use biological artifacts living creatures grown from their own flesh.

They view humanity's electronics and computers as ghastly artifacts of some dead world, and the physical sciences as imaginative delusions. They certainly have immense difficulty understanding human attitudes and concerns especially, since they are effectively immortal, our fear of death.

Their arrival years before triggered long-simmering conflicts into wars across the world. The Earth's flowering civilisation is collapsing in the economic, political and sexual havoc. Cities are divided into male and female enclaves, men and women on opposing sides. Some humans deliberately mutilate themselves and their children to better resemble the Aleutians, whom they see as saviours.

Sidney Carton is working with the aliens, though his reasons for so doing are hidden. During an attack on the alien camp, he rescues Goodlooking, a disabled alien librarian. Together they flee enemy forces, united only so long as their different objectives coincide.

Meanwhile humans, and some aliens, are desperately searching for the almost-mythical space drive which was used, one time only, in the attack on the first alien ship.

This is very good stuff. It's a thoughtful, intense read, and an effective illumination of how culture constrains understanding and of the difficulties communicating between different cultures, whether human or alien. Portentous stuff, desu shou? It's also got alien sex, and sex with aliens, so you have to read it now.

What's it got? a search for FTL travel, a hint of some scary biological weaponry, excellent aliens with a very different psychology and, albeit slightly gender-confused, alien sex.

Loaded on the 28th June 2001.
Cover of Northwind
Cover art by David Farren

Reviews of other works by Gwyneth Jones:
Bold As Love