Mission Child
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Mission Child

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  243 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Young Janna has lived her fourteen years on the icy northern plains of a world that has forgotten its history. Now the arrival of Earthers -- descendants of the humans who first settled the planet many centuries before -- has violently upset the fragile balance of a developing civilization. The offworlders' advanced technologies and cruel indifference to local life have br...more
Hardcover, 385 pages
Published December 1st 1998 by Eos (first published 1998)
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This is my favorite, favorite, favorite kind of science fiction. Social SF, or sociological SF, as seen through the observations of a protagonist who does not have the whole picture. A world explored through the eyes of a single character, often limited by language or situation. This book belongs on my shelf with Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness and Nicola Griffith's Ammonite.
I got to talk with Maureen McHugh this past weekend. She said she wasn't a plotter. She preferred "gardener" as oppos...more
this is the second or third time for me to read this book... each time i read it, it seems a little different to me.

the first time i read it, i was terribly frustrated by the apparent aimlessness of the protagonist, how she seemed rather spineless, unable to take her own fate into her hands.

this time... this time the book seems more like life.

sometimes i wonder if we of the west are not ruined by fiction. most fiction (especially since the odious notion of the perfection of the Hero's Tale struc...more
I gave up on this one after about 100 pages. It isn't terrible, but it wasn't holding my interest at all. The writing is very plain, which I know is probably a deliberate attempt to set a certain atmosphere, but it didn't help.

A disappointment, because I very much enjoyed McHugh's novel China Mountain Zhang.
An epic masterpiece!

Mothers & Other Monsters excepted, I’ve read the entirety of Maureen McHugh’s oeuvre. (“Devoured” is more like it; after stumbling upon her latest release, After the Apocalypse, I requested every McHugh title my local library owned - including any scifi anthologies containing her short stories - and consumed them all within the space of just a few months. She’s the greatest thing since Margaret Atwood, yo!) Mission Child is far and away my favorite of the bunch.

I had completely forgotten that the short-story collection "Mothers and Other Monsters," which I'd read this summer, was by the same author. So it was a surprise to begin reading this and think..."Hey, this seems awfully familiar." Apparently, this book had its start in one of the short stories--though I forget the title--with only a few slight differences that I could see. It was nice, to see where this character I'd met, briefly, months ago, would go and what she would become. Though I can see...more
First of all: This book is not scifi. Any elements about the future, science, etc. don't influence the story _at all_. You could put the same story in medieval england, nothing would change.

Second: This book is not about a spiritual odyssee. It's rather about a lost person who's not too smart and doesn't know what to do with his/her life. Nothing spiritual about that.

Third: This book is not about a stirring adventure. The main character never shows any initiative, it's like watching a ball in th...more
Eleanor R
I just spent the day reading this, and while it's not tightly plotted, there was obviously something about it that compelled me to keep reading. McHugh's worlds feel real, as do the people in them, and the characters in Mission Child are no exception. The world is like the opposite of a Planet of Hats, in that McHugh remembers that even characters from similar cultural backgrounds might not speak the same language, and Jan/Janna passes through a number of other locations that are as alien to her...more
"I can't," I said, but I let him make up my mind for me.

So, that happens on like the second page of the book, and it shows you where Janna starts off as a person - but where does she end up? Well that's the fun part. "Fun" is relative.

I think I get what McHugh is interested in, now (or what she was interested in in the early 90s) - and I dig it. But if you didn't dig it, I wonder if you might find her books a bit redundant. There is a lot of similarity with China Mountain Zhang here, and I found...more
Developing an already powerful short story from "Mothers ..." this novel made me feel some of the disorientation and lostness of refugees and indigenous people who have suffered huge trauma. The gender re-orientations (familiar from McHugh) serve as a second major plot thread to the refugee survival theme.

McHugh's focus on social justice stories, the lived experience of her diverse characters, and gender plus her perceptiveness and clear writing seem to me to make her a welcome addition to Ursu...more
Althea Ann
Stayed up way later than I should have finishing this!

It's not so much "what happened" - actually, the book is fairly low on "plot" - rather, it follows the (rather traumatic and itinerant) life of a woman from a primitive society on a colony planet, from the brink of womanhood to middle age, along the way dealing with issues of gender and sexuality, "appropriate technology," and finding a place to call home.
But the writing is just so good that it feels like a thriller!

I highly recommend it.
McHugh's writing in Mission Child reminds me so much of Ursula LeGuin (which is high praise from me). Like much of LeGuin's writing, this novel is about social science - that it is set on a different planet is not the most important thing. What is important are the ways people interact with each other and how social norms and pressures inform those interactions. It is also a sensitive and intelligent portrayal of a transgendered character. If any of this interests you, I recommend Mission Child...more
Steven Cole
I bought this book as it was one of the novels nominated for the 2000 Nebula awards.

Essentially, this is the story of a woman's journey from roughly teen age to late adulthood, exploring the definitions of self and home.

Unfortunately, this isn't the kind of story that gets me interested. Disaster after disaster strikes the main character, and then, right at the end, she has a bit of personal growth. Bah. Not my cup of tea.
A quick read and worthwhile. Janna survives war, the loss of a child and husband. Will she find peace and solace again? Her wanderings teach her new things about herself and the world she lives in. Naturally as a woman alone, she dresses as a man and then comes to find she likes herself that way. While the (happy?) ending was a bit subtle for me the richness of the main character and the world makes up for any lack.
Most science fiction doesn't really deal with the messiness, power dynamics, and personal loss as well as excitement that are likely to happen when one culture interacts with another one (depite the many examples we have of that happening in real life). This book does, with quietly powerful prose. It's like escapism grew up, majored in anthropology, and wrote a plaintative tell-all memoir.
I thought this was a book about scifi but it turned out to be a book about international development and colonialism which was awesome because THAT'S MY OTHER FAVORITE THING to read about. Also had some great/interesting treatment of gender issues.

Kelly, the first third of this book felt like the short story, but then it switched and felt a LOT like China Mountain Zhang thematically.
Elegant. Flawed. Moving. Fun. Like a cover version of THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS, but more naturalistic and personal. A bit thin in places though, especially the latter sections. McHugh is a great writer and I wish she would publish more, but this is not her best work. It was good enough, though, to inspire me to re-read her other novels--to give you an idea of the scale I'm grading on.
Big Shell
It has some intersting world building, but ultimately was let down by that the author seemed to think that she both could write decent characters and she has substantial understanding of Chinese language, culture and what it's like to be a new comer. she knew none of that. it shows.

it's a proof that I can finish any books if I were sick enough and bored enough. Never again.
The book included some standard elements of good sci-fi: future worlds, plague, sustainable technologies, off-world medicine. Also gender anormativity. But some things were a little too easy - the main character gets a chip implanted in her ear that allows her to hibernate and be extra strong. Very convenient. China Mtn. Zhang is much more clever.
Annie Tucker
Frankly, a disappointment. I am a huge fan of McHugh, but the format of the book, which changed settings every couple of chapters, made the narrative feel unsatisfying, merely shifting rather than growing more complex or resolving. I read an earlier version of the same story in a short story collection; what she did there was better.
Jul 28, 2011 Alexandra marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Could not connect to or care about the characters. The action was too slow to make up for this, and the world was not an especially interesting one either. I flicked to the end and can see that McHugh was doing interesting things, especially with notions of gender, but the story just didn't work for me.
The book does some interesting things, but that's not to say it does all of them well, or that they're all exciting things. At nearly 400 pages, the book feels much too long and a little too episodic, even by Maureen McHugh's standards. (I'm a big fan, but this was easily my least favorite of her novels.)
Felt like a The Clan of the Cave Bear-wannabe. Weaker main character than Ayla, though. I could not relate to her nor sympathize with her decisions.
This isn't McHugh's best book, but it's still head-and-shoulders above everything, and ought to be taught in high school. McHugh is so amazing, even on her off days, she's scribing classics of literature.
I really like this novel set on a world long ago settled by Earth, then left on its own. It explores issues of gender and culture identity without providing any easy answers or being in any way pedantic.
This one was a big disappointment for me. It just felt so...disjointed and unfinished. I felt like she was reaching for something throughout the whole book but never quite getting there.
I continue to like her short stories much more than her novels. This one was ok, but kind of went nowhere and didn't have much point.
This author is really good at imagining complex and detailed worlds. Some of her plots are pretty aimless though, like this one.
Pretty sure from the plot description that I've read this before, have to pick it up in person to see...
All the reviews I read raved about this book. I really like McHugh, but not so much this book.
An interesting story of colonialism, mixed with cultural and gender identity.
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Maureen F. McHugh (born 1959) is a science fiction and fantasy writer.

Her first published story appeared in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine in 1989. Since then, she has written four novels and over twenty short stories. Her first novel, China Mountain Zhang (1992), was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula Award, and won the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. In 1996 she won a Hugo Award for h...more
More about Maureen F. McHugh...
China Mountain Zhang After the Apocalypse Nekropolis Mothers & Other Monsters: Stories Half the Day is Night

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