the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Sheri S Tepper’ Category

Sideshow, by Sheri S Tepper

published in 1992

where I got it: purchased used

why I read it: This is my favorite Tepper, and one of my all time favorite SF novels.









Sheri Tepper’s Sideshow is one of my all time favorite science fiction novels. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve read this book.  Technically, it is the third book in her loosely related trilogy that starts with Grass and Raising the Stones.  I’ve read all three, and I believe they can easily be read as stand alones, or even better, in backwards order for a different, yet very satisfying experience.

Taking place many many generations after Raising the Stones (reviewed here), the remnants of humanity have fled to the hidden planet of Elsewhere, the only planet in the galaxy that is free of the Hobbs Land Gods.  On Elsewhere, diversity is prized above everything else, all cultures are respected and allowed to live their lives as they wish, and the two Arbai doors are guarded day and night. The citizens of Elsewhere may all belong to different cultures and tribes, but everyone celebrates on Great Question Day, when they celebrate the founding of Elsewhere and jokingly attempt to answer the great question of the age old galactic university: what is the ultimate destiny of man?

Meanwhile, back on Earth, in our time, a very important set of siamese twins are born. Nela and Bertan are as loved by their doting parents as any children could hope to be. And then, well, things go very badly with their parents and the twins quite literally end up joining the circus. Actually, it couldn’t have worked out better. If they’d never joined the circus, they would have never met the alien, and our story would never have happened.

If I got much more into the plot you’d be reading for ages, and even worse I know I’d inadvertently give away some great spoilers. The plot is subtle, engrossing, at times hilarious and at times truly tragic. Strong characters abound, along side aliens, orphans, ghosts, and  names you might recognize from other Tepper novels.

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Raising the Stones, by Sheri S Tepper

published in 1990

Where I got it: have owned it for a while



A  sprawling story that covers multiple planets and their satellites, a varity of religions and cultures, and even non-human races, both native and non-native to the planets, Raising the Stones perfectly balances epicness with intimacy. While Raising the Stones is considered the middle book in Tepper’s Marjorie Westriding series (the first book is Grass, and the third is Sideshow), I consider all of them to be stand alones. Yes, they take place in the same universe, but the characters and situations are very different. Occasionally characters or places are referred to, but I feel you can read some of the trilogy, or all of it, in any order you want.

The planet Hobbs Land (so named because it is owned by Hobbs Transworld Systems) is a pastoral agricultural planet. The company allows the colonists to live as they will, so long as the agricultural quotas are met.  When humans first landed on Hobbs Land, the native race was dying. After sitting with a few translators, the oldest of the natives attempted to explain a few religious matters, and then died.  The colonists have developed a matrelinial semi-communist society and never have a problem meeting quotes on this near-Eden like planet.

Hobbs Landers may not subscribe to a specific religion per se, unlike  other ethnic groups that populate the rest of the star system, such as the Voorstoders, an over-the-top mysogynistic and violent culture; the Baidee who eschew coersion of any kind, the Gharm, a humanoid race that have been enslaved by the Voorstoders; and the bureaucratic and militaristic arms of the the local governments who are mainly interested in trade relations, quotas, and safety of the population.  To say the least, this is an ensemble peice, and there is a lot of keep track of. Only a few characters are fully developed, but this is where Tepper successfully pulls an interesting stunt: it’s not the massive cast of characters that is important, it is the clashing cultures and religions that are of the utmost importance.

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Just so you know, this is a super long post with a funny at the end.  Not unlike an epic quest. . . .

I describe this website as offering Science Fiction & Fantasy reviews.  But going through my list of reviews, I’m seeing far more fantasy than science.  Maybe I should just describe it as a fantasy review site?  Or a gateway to fantasy review site?

When I was a kid, I was an adamant SF fan. Much of my youth was spent building spaceships out of legos and watching PBS shows about astronomy.  I craved scientific explanations for everything.  I wanted to know how everything worked

While my friends were reading Lloyd Alexander, I was reading Interstellar Pig.  As they moved onto Tolkien and Raymond Feist and Katherine Kurtz, I moved onto David Brin and Robert Heinlein and Frank Herbert.

To me, Fantasy was wizards with long beards, royals who went on quests where their soldiers and magical armor protected them, and elves and dwarves who spent the first half of the conversation telling you their lineages, and embarassingly rediculous cover art. really nothing else. I had no understanding that “high fantasy” was only the tip of the iceberg of the genre.  My limited experiences with high fantasy let me know quickly that I didn’t care for it.

And then I started reading manga, a form famous for mixing genres. Cyborg mechas using laser guns against a castle and fighting flesh and blood dragons that guarded hoards of treasure? no problem. Kids who get wisked away from their regular life to fight demons and spirits and collect magical shards? piece of cake.  Vampires, martians, aliens, dragons, time travel, often in the same series. And it worked, like magic.

Wait, wasn’t this, um, fantasy?  It sure was fantastical, and it sure wasn’t hard scifi. Read the rest of this entry »

  Xulai (Shoo-Lie, rhymes with July. Isn’t that a cool name??) lives as a servant in the household of Duke Justinian and his Tingawan wife Princess Xu-i-Lok. After they were married and the Princess learned she had been cursed, they requested a soul carrier from her Tingawan homeland. Xulai is that soul carrier. Appearing as a child of seven or eight, Xulai’s only use in life is to be with the Princess when she dies (which could be any moment), and then return to Tingawa with the Princess’s soul. In the meantime, Xulai is taught and protected by Precious Wind, who came with her from Tingawa, and Bear, a Tingawan Warrior. Early on, when we first meet Xulai, she is approached by an unusual traveler, Abasio, and his even more unusual talking horse, Blue. Abasio and Blue will prove to be the best part of the story. 

The Princess does die, and she does give her soul (and something else) to Xulai. Tingawa lies across the sea, and it is decided the safest way to get there is to travel to the southern end of the continent to a port city where a Tingawan ship is waiting. It is of the utmost importance that Xulai reach Tingawa. But the roads are dangerous, and on the way they stop at the abbey, which seems more a center of population than a religious center. There is corruption afoot, as the Queen of the realm, Mirami, and her daugher, Alicia, are constantly fighting each other for power. When Precious Wind and Abasio learn they have been betrayed at the abbey, the party continues south, even more cautious than before.

Much of the plot revolves around the journey south and avoiding Mirami, Alicia, and their mentor the Dark Old Man. Xulai may appear as a child, but she is older than she looks. In fact, many of the characters are not what they appear to be. Once Xulai discovers who and what she is, plans must be laid to keep the truth safe. Read the rest of this entry »

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.