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The Child Garden

3.75  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,063 Ratings  ·  93 Reviews
In a semi-tropical London, surrounded by paddy-fields, the people feed off the sun, like plants, the young are raised in Child Gardens and educated by viruses, And the Consensus oversees the country, 'treating' non-conformism. Information, culture, law and politics are biological functions. But Milena is different: she is resistant to viruses and an incredible musician, on ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 388 pages
Published July 1990 by Unwin (first published 1989)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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That rare combination of great writing and truly imaginative worldbuilding, and yet... The Child Garden takes place at some unspecified point in the future, when the Earth has warmed to the point that London has become a subtropical area protected from the sea by a human-made Barrier Reef, and 100 years after a worldwide communist revolution (and also the failure of electricity) has ushered in a new era of Foucauldian discipline, as we are repeatedly told that this is a population so conditioned ...more
Apr 20, 2010 Kelly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I guess this review contains spoilers but I honestly don't have a clue what the fuck happened in this book, so it'd be difficult for me to actually spoil you. Plus, the only person who's going to read this is Martha, so.

Since I moved to Boston six years ago, I have only ever read books when I am on public transportation. If I pick up a book to keep reading it when I'm at home, I feel guilty and force myself to stop. Because what if I finish the book tonight and then tomorrow morning I am confron
Nov 30, 2012 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is paranoid, tender, poetic, frantic, utopian, distopian, tedious, tragic, exultant, and absolutely riddled with typos (at least the Small Beer Press edition). However, it is also a once in a lifetime book. To give a brief summary of even one of the plot lines would give me a headache. There is a lot here. The shear outlandishness of Ryman’s vision made it feel like it would topple over at any minute (it sometimes does). But it is worth it. This guy has thought thoughts way weirder and ...more
Randy Mcdonald
Nov 25, 2012 Randy Mcdonald rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
It is the year 2075.

In the early 21st century, American biotechnologists manage to cure cancer with a simple infectious virus. Only after this virus is released in the Earth's atmosphere is it found that cancer in fact plays a vital role in extending life: Cancer cells, being immortal, secrete proteins that prevent cell death, allowing people to get old. Without cancer people die at the age of 35. The halving of human life expectancy--to say nothing of the mass death suffered by everyone unfortu
Jul 30, 2007 Wealhtheow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Beyond incredible. In the world of the future, humanity has sacrificed growth and old age to the alter of knowledge. While telling a most unconventional love story Ryman finds time to play with the ideas of evolution, love, identity, madness, and whether knowledge is the acquisition of facts or something else. His main character is a woman I would love to know myself. This is a must read, regardless of whether you like sf or not.
Dec 13, 2014 martha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Maureen McHugh
What an odd, interesting read. The world-building is fantastic: somehow a huge welter of disparate futuristic elements manages to fit together into a cohesive whole. A subtropical, Communist, vaguely medieval London; genetically modified photosynthesizing humans; hyperintelligent children; a governing, literal collective unconscious; Dante, opera, holograms, weird genetically mutated mental contagions, etc etc.

I really liked how the society was obviously problematic without being overly menacing
Jun 30, 2013 Brad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, mindfuq, biopunk
What really stands out in my mind is the imaginative use of biology and photosynthesis with the people. The mind and memory aspects were also fascinating for both a story vehicle and character development. I thought it was a fun read, but more importantly, it was very full of great ideas and should be read for this, if not anything else. :)
Jul 12, 2013 zxvasdf rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Paul di Filippo coined the term ribofunk as the biological analogue to the popular genre steampunk. That is an adequate term to describe Ryman's London of the future, which consists of a pit filled with historical oddities such as wooden houses and faithful theatrical productions while the rest are communities grown of living coral or vast mycelial structures that serve as a food source as well as a housing arrangement.

This is the future, one that this reviewer has failed to render in the beau
Mar 03, 2013 Kian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-masterworks
In the future, cancer has been cured, but at the price of the longevity of live. People now only live to their 30s, and as such, have to become adults all the more quickly. Society has invented viruses to replace learning, augment immunity and provide human photosynthesis. The Consesnsus is a collective of intelligence, guiding humanity and removing non-normal conformity. In this, the story follows Milena - a woman who is resistant to viruses and suffers from "bad grammar", but the Collective ha ...more
Mar 20, 2014 Jenne marked it as didnt-finish  ·  review of another edition
This started out really interesting, and I think Geoff Ryman is no-kidding a genius, but I got about halfway through and realized I was not reading any books at all because of how much I was avoiding reading this one. I think part of the problem is that the main character is so dissociated from herself that I just couldn't connect with her...which made it really hard to be interested in her story after a while.
Too bad, because everything else in the book was FASCINATING.
Hannah Boyd
This book was interesting - it's not really dystopian, it's not really artificial intelligence, it's not really sci-fi. But it kind of is. I guess it's kind of a believable exploration of where science could take society and what that could mean. It's funny that the way we live now is held up as being so fantastic compared to where they end up in the book, especially since our current way of life is so flawed and unsustainable.
Lewis Manalo
Aug 21, 2010 Lewis Manalo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the dystopian London of the future, a teenage germophobe has a lesbian romance with an opera-singing polar bear. And that's just the beginning.

This book is FREAKIN' AWESOME. The premise sounds completely ridiculous, but the story engages the reader emotionally and intellectually. This book is a must for sci-fi fans and (though explaining it would spoil parts of the story) for theater people, too.

I kept going back and forth on this book. Or, better - up and down. And also, the book had some part in that too, it's not just that I'm fickle. I thought it was deeply interesting, but terribly paced. Sometimes it reminded me of a Derek Jarman movie, and sometimes of Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam books, but the weird visuals were oddly inaccessible. I feel like it's the sort of sci-fi academics love, or that academics who work on sci-fi love love (I'm an academic and I didn't love it), and maybe ...more
Zen Cho
Jun 07, 2008 Zen Cho rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sff
I liked this less than Air, but that might be because Air was my first encounter with Geoff Ryman. I think this suffered a bit from the fact that it was a third Ryman book in a row; one starts wondering what his thing is about floods, weird pregnancies and khatulistiwa climes ... equatorial is the word! Right. As I said, one starts wondering, which is okay if one is a literary critic, but slightly less so if one is merely a reader who wishes to be engrossed.

I am still a bit puzzled about the kha
People love this book. People hate this book. I loved it, but it wasn't perfect love. This is a flawed book, but after a while I began to enjoy it on a character level. There is real emotion here among the oddness. The politics, as usual, escaped me. I don't have the mind for philosophy or politics. What interests me is character, motivation, love, art,inventiveness. I don't read a lot of SF, so I can't comment on whether or not this is good science fiction or spec fiction, but at the time I rea ...more
Aug 11, 2007 Min rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
I don't remember how I got this book, or even when. I have owned it for a long time, though, and re-read it at least once a year. More than any other book I have read, I find that I still react as strongly to each reading as I did to the first. It is beautifully written: lyrical, heartbreaking, imaginative, thought-provoking, and touching.
This is not a book for those who like linear story lines or who find themselves easily confused if the timeframe is not explicitly given. Nor is it for those
B.P. Gregory
Give me the short version: Cancer was finally bested, at the accidental cost of lifespan, individuality and, cruelest of all, childhood itself. Not even Milena realizes she intends to change all this.

Amongst my friends, The Child Garden is known colloquially as "That Sad Book" because every time I finish it I end up bawling with a total overload of grief and joy.

The structure's initially a mystery to somebody unfamiliar with opera, but the story is more than powerful enough to stick with until
Andy Mangham
Jun 01, 2016 Andy Mangham rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I read reviews of this book that claim it's too abstract, easy to get lost in (not in the good way), or just plain over the top, I have to admit–I know where they're coming from. The book IS abstract; I can't deny it–I can't even honestly say that I understood it 100% of the time. It also asks a lot out of the average reader–the world of The Child Garden is a helluva lot different than ours, so much so that some readers might find it hard to take seriously.
However, I took the book seriously
Nov 15, 2015 Arabella rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dystopian
I read this the summer before my sophomore year of high school. I am a fairly advanced reader. So I think it is a good read for 16 and above. There are a lot of sexual themes, including pregnancy and bestiality. And like many others have said: TYPOS! You have been warned.

As many other reviewers have said, this book takes place in a very fantastical dystopian future. I was okay with this (much more refreshing compared to most teen dystopian books; although this is definitely NOT a teen dystopian.
Sep 26, 2015 Mhallowell rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
"This book won the Arthur C Clarke prize for SF in 1989 from Bantam Books."

I always hate it when there is a "just released" book, and I end up having to dig up when it was first published.
I don't mind reading older books, just like them to be up front with the info.
That said, I read the recently released digital addition.
The story was good enough that I finished reading the whole book. That would normally automatically have me give it two stars. BUT, it was rather hard to read. Not because of th
Sunshine Reddick
Mar 19, 2015 Sunshine Reddick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a voracious reader and a speed reader. There are so many books and so little time. However, I took my time with this book. Reading several chapters, putting it down, walking away to think about what I'd read and then came back to read more. It made me think a lot about what it is to be human. What it means to just be able to have emotions. It was a really thought provoking book for me.

It all starts and ends with Milena. She is virus resistant youth who thinks she might be in love with a gen
Jun 04, 2012 Kateywatey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The word dystopic has become so overused and ubiquitously misunderstood. This book would be the ideal slap in the face for those really seeking to find accounts of a life less ordinary ...

Lovers of music will not be disappointed. The language is rich, lyrical, rhythmically dominant in luring you from page to page.

Lovers of women equally will find themselves instantly taken by the Milena/Rolfa camp. I identified with Milena, and couldn't help but fall for Rolfa ...

5* -- highly recommended.
Mar 04, 2012 Bee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
People are purple because they photosynthesize, viruses are cures that change who you are, some people turn into Bees and then can grow vegetation (if they haven't accidentally swapped identities with a dog), organic spaceships can re-write genetics to grow anything from snapping turtles to roses, and genetically engineered people are turned into polar bears to mine in the Arctic. Really weird, but kind of awesome.
Jun 28, 2010 Paige rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fsf, postapocalyptic
Mind-blowing. That's pretty much all there is to say.

Oh, except for a hint: don't try to quantify the narrative, or try to get something sensical and linear out of it. That's not the point of the novel. The point is to convey the themes therein: life, death, the necessity of change and creative thinking.
Infinite Scythe
Mar 13, 2016 Infinite Scythe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My first real science fiction book and I'm relieved to say I really liked it. This book was unlike anything I've read before. At first I was a little unsure about reading it but once I started it was hard to put it down. The ideas are a little out there that's for sure but it was well written. (my copy had a good amount of typos in it >.<) It took me longer than I expected to read but I think that's because you had to think. You had to concentrate on what you were reading in order to under ...more
Norman Howe
Good news: They've cured cancer!Bad news: Apparently"," pre-cancerous cells secrete substances which retard the aging process. The normal human lifespan is cut in half.Oops.Milena Shibush lives in a future in which bio-engineered viruses have revolutionized the human race. Not all of this is a good thing"," mind you. Milena's in a unique position"," as she is apparently resistant to many of these viruses. This makes her a second-class citizen.Struggling against her handicaps"," and mourning a fa ...more
Rory Tregaskis
Dec 21, 2015 Rory Tregaskis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Never read anything like it.

It's flawed, but because of how original it is, I think it deserves five stars.
Mar 01, 2014 Linda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The book started really well and I enjoyed it. When I was about 40% through, it began to feel like I was in a very bad drug trip and couldn't escape. Several times I almost quit reading but I thought, since the beginning was good, sooner or later I'd come back to the love story between the main characters. But it just keep feeling like bad acid. Plus, at about 40% through, there began to be many typos. That's bad editing, not necessarily the author's fault, but it's distracting to the storyline. ...more
Kelly Flanagan
Apr 24, 2014 Kelly Flanagan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Margaret Atwood / offcenter books

This was a great book. Reminiscent of a Margaret Atwood yet totally original. I was nonchalant about the lead character for most of the book, as she is a difficult person to like. After finishing the book and thinking about it, the dislike was probably due to seeing glimpses of my own unsociability in her. But although she seems the underdog, perceptions are often misleading. Much like the plot in this book. I found it went everywhere except where I expected it to go.

The story takes place in Lo
May 12, 2012 Niall519 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Almost impossible to review or really describe: which is partially a result of reading a lot of it in brief chunks while falling asleep at night, and partially as a result of both the subjects and style. The best I can do is jot down a couple of thoughts and reactions.

The first is that it's reasonably easy to trace lines of influence leading to and from this book. I found elements of JG Ballard, PK Dick, Greg Bear, and even Michael Moorcock in this. Subsequently, similar tropes show up in some o
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Geoffrey Charles Ryman (born 1951) is a writer of science fiction, fantasy and slipstream fiction. He was born in Canada, and has lived most of his life in England.

His science fiction and fantasy works include The Warrior Who Carried Life (1985), the novella The Unconquered Country (1986) (winner of the British Science Fiction Award and the World Fantasy Award), and The Child Garden (1989) (winner
More about Geoff Ryman...

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“Sex complicates, but it is the power of love to simplify.” 10 likes
“In the silence, nothing was fragmented. There were no separate strands to gather together, to fumble, to complete for attention. In the silence, all of that fell away, and there was only what was here, and what was to be done.” 6 likes
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