My New Book Review Blog

Just kidding! Ain’t nobody got time for reviewing, but I just read this book:

It’s Sheri Tepper’s final book, written when she was in her 80s and published two years before she died. On Goodreads, Fish Tails has a kinda normal 3.6 total grade, but there are so many one star reviews like this:

I cannot believe I am giving a Sheri Tepper book a one star review, but this book is a horrid mess.

So I wanted to natter on about it a bit. I’ll let you read the first three pages first:

I understand why many people really dislike this book — it’s not a good book. Most everything they say about it is true: It’s too long (700 pages), it’s repetetive (there’s a 13 page introduction that’s inexplicably repeated 70 pages later, but expanded to about 20 pages, among other oddities), it doesn’t have much of a plot arc (a magical alien swoops in the last 100 pages and fixes everything OOPS SPOILERS)…

I just found it to be a pleasant read. Tepper’s previous book was in 2010, and this was published in 2014 (the longest wait between books ever — she used to publish a couple books per year), so I guess she wrote it over several years. It has that kind of feel. Reading this book is basically like sitting listening to somebody confabulate about an imagined world. The main part of the book has the main characters drive slowly through this world, and they encounter people (oh so many people), and every one of these people explicate at length about some part of this world.

Even when they stop moving around, there are random people poking their heads in and talk for a couple of pages about, well, anything — mating rituals, soup production, how to pack a bag — and are then never heard from again.

So how the novel was constructed is very obvious — the seams are showing. Tepper was probably thinking about this world all the time, and whenever she came up with something, she put it into the novel. And then a few days later, she sees that that didn’t quite add up, so she adds a new character clarifying the previous bit. And so on until you have this brick of a book.

That’s no way to make a novel! They should have, like, plots and stuff! And stakes! But eh, whatevs.

Some of the characters obsess a bit too much about certain things, and that’s annoying — but that’s also acknowledged within the book, where other characters tell them to stop going over the same things again and again. So Tepper seemed aware that the book may be annoying to some, but she doesn’t care that much. And that’s fine.

This book has several magical dohickeys that could fix anything the characters encounter, but they always seem to be forgotten when there’s some bad people around, but Tepper has an explanation for that, too: Her characters forgot to read the instructions on the dohickeys. Sure, why not.

So would I recommend this book? Of course. Not. Tepper has written a good number of really solid novels (like Beauty or The Gate To Women’s Country), but after you’ve read all the other er 40? books, you may or may not want to just spend some more time with Tepper, and that’s what this book offers.

I’m not sure many people want to, these days. First of all — most science fiction authors are pretty much forgotten when they stop publishing. The new books function like ads for the older books, and when they stop writing, people stop buying all their old books, too.

Here’s the results for Sheri Tepper:

The ones that have “add to cart” are probably still in print, and the “backorder” ones may not be. But more importantly, we get 9 results in total, and she’s written so many more books.

But beyond just, like, being dead, there may be other reasons why she’s being forgotten: Her Big Theme was that People Are Awful And Something Should Be Done About It. This could have been her theme song:

Gary Clail On-U Sound System - Human Nature

And Tepper’s solution (throughout many of her books) is eugenics. The only way to get a better future, or a future at all, is to breed better humans. This, coupled with her perhaps essentialist views on gender, won’t endear her to many liberals. But perhaps right-wing people would enjoy her books? Hah! Right-wing-itude is what she wanted to breed out of the human race, so not many sales there, either.

Another thing they said over at Goodreads is that Tepper is famously humourless… and I guess I see what they mean, because she’s very earnest about certain things. But she’s also hilarious: In one of the novels, she has an alien species that’s going to save the world (again, by breeding better humans), but this species is pretty wasp-like. And at one point in the book, it’s mating season, so they have to lay their eggs (that turn into larvae) somewhere. And it has to be in a sentient creature! (For some reason that I’m sure was explained.) And they’re working on saving Earth, so they can’t leave, so they have to lay their eggs in humans. Who to choose? Well, of course they have to choose somebody who thinks that all life is sacrosanct, so they choose a few dozen (male) Pro-Lifers (priests, politicians, etc), lay their eggs in them, and then the larvae chew their way out of their abdomens.

It was the funniest thing ever! Pure glee!

I couldn’t remember the name of the book, so I googled, and it’s Fresco:

But according to Tepper (in this book at least – not neccesarily her personal view) it’s ok to rape men if they are anti-abortion.

Lots of people (I guess mostly men) were really offended. Tee hee!

Anyway, that’s the last Tepper book, and I’ve already read all the rest (even the ones written under other pseudonyms), so that’s a bit wistful…

Er… So that’s it. I’m done typing now.

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