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We Who Are About To...

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  341 ratings  ·  50 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 4 of 5 stars  ·  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 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
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
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
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
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.
Nicole Cushing
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
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
The most depressing science fiction novel I've ever read.
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
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
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
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
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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.
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.
This is a mediocre book with a dreadful introduction. Delaney mentions the Cold Equations and then quotes a reviewer who clearly has not read the story.
Really makes you think.....
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
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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
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Dan Smith
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I'm marking this as a four, because I realize that this book is well written, even if I didn't grasp it well while reading it. As far as why that is, my difficulty with understanding what this book is about, I think part of that is that this is treated broadly. It's not the sort of thing you can pick up from a sentence by sentence reading. Whatever the "aboutness" is, I think maybe I'll get it better after I have more time to process the book, and view it in it's entirety. Hope that makes at lea ...more
Zachary Peterson
I can deal with a darker story, but not if it has trouble keeping me engaged. I felt that Russ' style was very creative and enjoyable but the story itself seemed to limp along without much of a catalyst. Perhaps I'll need to come back it read it again in the future for it to really hit me.
Otis Campbell
And you see a girl's brown body dancing through the turquoise,
And her footprints make you follow where the sky loves the sea.
And when your fingers find her, she drowns you in her body,
Carving deep blue ripples in the tissues of your mind.
If you're not already familiar with the book, I'd recommend reading Delaney's intro last because it gives away all the major plot points. (And yes, it's more of a book of ideas than of plot points, but still.) A group of travelers crash land on an alien planet with no hope of rescue. This novel explores what happens when thay don't agree on what to do next. Don't let the thinness of the book mislead you: this is not a quick, simple read.
I really wanted to like this book but it is a piece of absolute sh*t. It doesn't even deserve one star but I can't seem to go lower than that here.

This was my second Joanna Russ book after The Female Man, which I consider to be the single worst book I have ever read. It's clear to me now that she is incapable of good writing. She reminds me of a senile old woman, erratically shifting focus between useless details that do not serve the story. My eyes roll back into my head and I struggle to pay
An interesting book with lots of big ideas and thinky thoughts, but ultimately a little flat. This is a novel about death and I didn't understand why the narrator didn't just kill herself if she wanted to die. Which makes me think - was she hoping against hope? Did she want to drag everyone else down with her? So hard to know.....
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Joanna Russ was an American writer and feminist. She is the author of a number of works of science fiction, fantasy and feminist literary criticism and is best known for The Female Man, a novel combining utopian fiction and satire. It uses the device of parallel worlds as a form of a mediation of the ways that different societies might produce very different versions of the same person, and how al ...more
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“To die on a dying Earth - I'd live, if only to weep.” 4 likes
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