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We Who Are About To...

3.72  ·  Rating Details  ·  400 Ratings  ·  65 Reviews
A multi-dimensional explosion hurls the starship s few passengers across the galaxies and onto an uncharted barren tundra. With no technical skills and scant supplies, the survivors face a bleak end in an alien world. One brave woman holds the daring answer, but it is the most desperate one possible.
Elegant and electric, We Who Are About To... brings us face to face with
Paperback, 144 pages
Published March 15th 2005 by Wesleyan (first published January 1976)
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Nate D
Jun 04, 2013 Nate D rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: civilization is fine without you
Recommended to Nate D by: Emilie / Moira
The unacceptability of outsiders. The inability of society to accept, discuss, or process perspectives that run sharply against its primary thrust. Not even so much against as just completely oblique to, even.

Essential sci-fi premise: survivors of a crash-landing on an unknown and unexplored planet.

Essential sci-fi elaboration (particularly golden era): civilization goes on! plucky survivors maintain hope, persevere against all odds!

Essential reality: if no one knows where to look for you, in th
First Second Books
I was amused by this book because I think it’s a reasonable example of how I’d respond if I ended up crash-landed on an alien planet with a small group of people (possibly minus the murder, but you never know). They’d be all like, ‘let’s establish the building blocks for a civilization!’ and I’d be, ‘you guys, you know that no one’s ever going to find us and we only have food for two months, right?’
I read The Handmaid's Tale when I was pregnant with my first child. So, of COURSE I read We Who Are About To . . . shortly after the birth of my second. Thus, the supreme inconvenience of pregnancy, the utter danger of childbirth, and the crap-shoot of infant survival were pretty high up in my mind while I read.

I don't think I've ever read a book where "survival" was the dumbest option, but I do remember a comedy bit where the guy said that in the event of zombie apocalypse, his survival tactic
Jul 20, 2014 Jimmy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: female, novel, year-1970s
I don't always read sci-fi, but when I do, I read sci-fi that doesn't resemble sci-fi.

I read Joanna Russ.

Oh yes it's in a future and on a distant planet. But Russ makes sure that none of that matters because they're stranded. All of those gadgets and gizmos of the future matter not a wit as they slowly devolve backwards into the 21st century, 18th century, something something B.C. Humans, savages, animals.

Thus stripping sci-fi of its sci-fi-ness (well, except a few little things... the broomstic
Nov 09, 2012 Zulu rated it really liked it
I substituted this book onto my list because I figured it was time to flesh out my Russ reading instead of relying heavily on The Female Man. I didn't know what it was about before diving in, although Delany's introduction gave some unsubtle hints.

So the first-person narrator and seven other people, passengers on a hyperspace/tesseract space ship, are stranded on a random planet when the ship explodes. Delany says Russ was deliberately playing with the two contrary ideas that a) most plane crash
What I appreciate the most about Joanna Russ, after reading this and On Strike Against God, is how rough around the edges she is. Not in terms of her writing quality or skill--in We Who Are About To... she uses an unreliable first-person narrator and an unexpected narrative structure masterfully--but in terms of her willingness to let the negatives of experience all hang out without apology. Of course, that makes her sound bleak, so perhaps it would be better to say that she seizes on all forms ...more
Mar 21, 2012 Jeff rated it it was amazing
This is just a near-perfect novella, in my opinion. A fascinating take on how we face death, and how we ought to, wrapped up in a neat little sci-fi plot. Also: And ending that doesn't back away from the difficulties that death presents.
Aug 24, 2013 Vishy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The way we discover new books and writers is sometimes quite interesting and serendipitous. This is how I discovered Joanna Russ’ ‘We Who Are About To…’. I read a review of Ursula Le Guin’s ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’. In the comments section, one of the commenters had recommended Joanna Russ’ book and I went and read about the book and about Joanna Russ in Wikipedia and I was so fascinated that I couldn’t resist getting it. I finished reading it yesterday. Here is what I think.

‘We Who Are About
Nicole Cushing
Jul 30, 2011 Nicole Cushing rated it liked it
I stumbled upon this book at ReaderCon and decided to give Russ' work a whirl. This is the first of her books I've purchased. I'm open (but not chomping at the bit) to read her again.

I'm very much conflicted in my opinion about this novel. On the one hand, I felt it was as original and intriguing a take on alienation as I've ever read. There's a nihilism here, too, that I found appealing to contemplate. But, on the other hand, there's a matter of the late Ms. Russ' style. A blurb on the back of
This is a mediocre book with a dreadful introduction by an author (Samuel Delany) who really should know better. Delaney's introduction mentions the Cold Equations, butchers the plot, and then quotes a critic (Katherine Cramer) who hasn't read the story either. This is the sort of hatchet job I would expect from a tabloid. Sir, you disappoint me.
Feb 11, 2008 Yvonne rated it it was amazing
The last of my five suggested books for the uninitiated science fiction reader: Russ takes the genre to the edges of feminism and spins its clichés into gold. Read it last, and to really enjoy it, have some Heinlein or Asimov near by to compare.
John Walsh
Aug 19, 2011 John Walsh rated it it was amazing
The most depressing science fiction novel I've ever read.
Oct 13, 2013 Kelly rated it it was amazing
Womb Raider

Caution: minor spoilers ahead. Also, trigger warning for rape and violence.

The year’s 2120 (roughly), and an unlucky group of space travelers find themselves stranded on an barren alien planet devoid of animal life. Hurled there by a multi-dimensional explosion, they have little hope of being rescued, the nature of space travel being what it is: in essence, the folding of spacetime. Do it wrong and you can end up “God knows where, maybe entirely out of [y]our galaxy, which is that du
Feb 05, 2014 Bruce rated it really liked it
Just before exploding, a lost starship ejects its passenger compartment on a planet with a breathable atmosphere. There are three men and five women, food and water for six months, and no idea where they are. It may be, as the narrator puts it, “We’re nowhere. We’ll die alone.” The other survivors do not favor her point of view, and begin planning how to live on this unknown planet and how to populate and subdue it. But as the days wear on, friction among the group builds, tempers flare and viol ...more
Alexander Weber
Oct 05, 2014 Alexander Weber rated it really liked it
This book is very hard to rate. Honestly, the writing is not 4/5. However, the idea and audacity to write this book I think makes it worthy of a strong rating.
I love that Russ flipped a conventional SF idea on its head. Actually, she flipped most storyline ideas on its head. The ending was initially boring, but gained speed as the narrator lost her mind and started to hallucinate memories and her favourite music.

The delivery is 3/5. The ideas are 4/5. I'm giving it 4/5 because it is not well kno
Jan 07, 2009 Ariel rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I love bookstores and libraries of all kinds. Big ones with an endless buffet of options, curated collections with a peculiar slant to them, haphazard piles of books that the owners clearly didn't know what to do with. But I have a secret test for any book vendor that few pass and those special few have a permanent place in my heart: is there any Joanna Russ?

Russ is a classic SF writer who published during the New Wave and won or was nominated for most of the major SF awards. She also wrote kick
Jan 10, 2011 Andie rated it liked it
Different. The situation - being stranded on an uninhabited planet is harrowing enough. But when you play out the social dynamics to such a disasterous end, it becomes rather depressing. The depression factor is, I'd say, on par with Sartre's Nausea. To be honest, I'm not sure whether I enjoyed the book or not. However, it is an intersting study in human nature.
Apr 14, 2014 Mark rated it it was amazing
Grim, beautifully written examination of one of the primary conceits of science fiction that turns the usual premise of plucky, resourceful survivors on an alien planet completely inside out and on its head. Sobering. Russ is rarely for the faint of heart, even in her lighter fare, and this is in no way "light." Short, incisive, paradigm-cracking.
Brianne Reeves
Jan 06, 2016 Brianne Reeves rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
I liked this. It's dark. By and large, the main character is suicidal and is attempting to die a slow, painful death. It explores loneliness and sanity, desperation. All in a short 110 pages.
Emer O'Toole
Jun 03, 2016 Emer O'Toole rated it it was amazing
My second Russ book. Oh but she's a shining star. While many have noted that this is one of the most accessible of her novels, it still experiments deliciously with structural conventions and genre expectations. The first half is defined by character archetypes that nicely invert gender tropes and play with intersections of class and gender. A group of space travelers wind up on a desert planet. The patriarchy is returning à la Lord of the Flies, but our narrator would rather die! The second hal ...more
Feb 07, 2016 Jens rated it really liked it
Good book, but a masterpiece of science fiction it's not.

Mostly, there's not much science there. If you think of SF as speculative fiction, there's also not much speculation there.

Although it starts from a classic SF premise, it quickly turns into a political and spiritual introspection of the protagonist. That is interesting in many ways, and I could discuss the themes for hours on end.

I guess it's one of those misclassified books, like Lem (who insisted he wrote philosophy, whilst writing mu
Mar 20, 2015 Betsy rated it it was amazing
Really makes you think.....
Veleka Georgieva
Aug 23, 2016 Veleka Georgieva rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
K. Jarboe
I'm about half way through this now. I bought it because Sam Delaney sat behind the publisher's book table at a convention and was like "you should read this, or maybe this other Russ book if you've never read her, but I wrote the forward for this one." And I was like, "Okay Sam Delaney, real person that I can talk to, I guess I better buy this from you." And then later in the day, Nicola Griffith was like "I love Joanna Russ," and I was like "WELL OKAY! I did well today with my book buying I ho ...more
Aug 29, 2015 Kai rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 16, 2015 Alexandra rated it really liked it
This is not an easy book to read. But it's a Russ, so that's not exactly a surprise, is it? She takes an SF trope - the idea that survivors of a crashed spaceship somehow colonise an uninhabited planet - and wreaks merry havoc.

This was apparently first published as two novellas (maybe even novelettes; the book is only 120 pages). By the end of the first half, all but one of the characters is dead. Surely the second half is going to show the sole remaining character that the planet is actually in
Dec 16, 2013 Phil rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dan Smith
Jan 16, 2013 Dan Smith rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Liz Quack
Apr 01, 2016 Liz Quack rated it it was amazing
Joanna Russ tends to meander through the beginnings of her stories, but in "We Who Are About To...", she starts it all off at a sprint. Joanna paints a grim picture as she almost gleefully toys with language.

This is one of the most realistic stories that I've read involving space travel... I would've never thought about impacted wisdom teeth and their impacts (heh) on survival, but our narrator does. She thinks about most everything, really.

This is one of my favorite books and I recommend it t
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Joanna Russ (February 22, 1937 – April 29, 2011) was an American writer, academic and feminist. She is the author of a number of works of science fiction, fantasy and feminist literary criticism such as How to Suppress Women's Writing, as well as a contemporary novel, On Strike Against God, and one children's book, Kittatinny. She is best known for The Female Man, a novel combining utopian fiction ...more
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“To die on a dying Earth - I'd live, if only to weep.” 4 likes
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