We Who Are About To...
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We Who Are About To...

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  257 ratings  ·  40 reviews
A multi-dimensional explosion hurls the starship's few passengers across the galaxies and onto an uncharted barren planet. 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.
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...more
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...more
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...more
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
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...more
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...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.
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...more
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...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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.
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.
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
John Stephen
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...more
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...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dan Smith
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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.
Brandon Ostrom
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.
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...more
Dec 29, 2013 Kathy rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: sf
A small group is stranded on a strange planet w/ no skills or equipment. This was billed as classic Sci-Fi, but I was unimpressed. No plot, characters were indistinguishable and acted w/ no apparent reason, and not a strong setting. The ending is depressing: the narrator kills her fellow survivors and narrates her experience of starving to death (which narration is the last half of the slim volume). I got bored and skipped it.
This book is, perhaps, a harsh (while accurate) assessment of the underlying mentality of much pre- (ok, and post) "new-wave" science fiction written by men. A space-ship crash lands on some marginally habitable planet on the edge of nowhere and the male members of the crew insist on a regiment of enforced reproduction in order to ensure the survival of the species. I guess this is Russ at her least subtle and most didactic. I love Joanna Russ, but this isn't my favorite.
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
After attempting to re-read Darkover Landfall, I can see why Russ wrote this in response. (I don't remember exactly where I read this.) There are parts of Darkover Landfall that make me want to throw it against the wall. With great force. I want to say that I read this over ten years ago, but I really don't remember when at all.
Erik Graff
Jan 21, 2012 Erik Graff rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Russ fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sf
Joanna Russ, along with Ursula LeGuin, Vonda McIntrye and others, is one of the women who arose in the science fiction genre in the sixties and collectively expanded its range to include much more than the technologically relevant physical sciences.

This novel, although set on a planet far away, is about the meaning of life. There are no pat answers. Some will find it very depressing.
ABout a third of the way in, and I have to admit, I'm having a really hard time parsing the narrative; the feminism is fascinating, but I would have been able to peg this as seventies fiction although I can't put my finger on why. I like a little less hallucination with my dystopias, maybe, or maybe I'm just too damn removed from the context in which it was written to really grasp the critiques.
Oct 17, 2013 ems rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: sf
Lighter on gender politics than the introduction suggests. It's written from a first person POV -- which becomes closer to stream-of-consciousness narration in the second half. The character of the narrator is really the strong point of the novel. And it's genuinely sad and a little frightening -- I actually had to stop reading at one point toward the end and get hold of myself.
Benedict Reid
Not what I expected at all... but all the more interesting for it. A sci-fi that seemed very focused on an educated woman's self-hate. Given that the only other book by Russ I've read is "How to suppress woman's writing", this was a very interesting companion piece.
Bethany Harvey
I'm holding off on rating this. Right now I want to call it a 3, because I thought the second half was too long, which I realize is an odd thing to say about a 100-page book. But I suspect I might change my mind if I give it some more thought.
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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.” 3 likes
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