The Child Garden: A Low Comedy
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The Child Garden: A Low Comedy

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  784 ratings  ·  72 reviews
Winner of the Arthur C. Clarke and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards.

"An exuberant celebration of excess set in a resource-poor but defiantly energetic twenty-first century."—The New York Times

"A richly absorbing tale—with a marvelous premise expertly carried out."—Kirkus Reviews

"Excellent. . . . Dark and witty and full of love, closely observed, and sprinkled with astonish...more
Paperback, 388 pages
Published June 28th 2011 by Small Beer Press (first published 1989)
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Zach
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
Brian
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
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...more
Kelly
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...more
Kian
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
Wealhtheow
Jul 30, 2007 Wealhtheow rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.
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.
zxvasdf
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...more
martha
Apr 05, 2010 martha rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Maureen McHugh
Shelves: 2010
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...more
Zen Cho
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...more
Jenne
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.
Richard
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,inventivness. 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 read...more
Min
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...more
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...more
Kateywatey
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.
Bee
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.
Lewis Manalo
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.

Brad
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. :)
Paige
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.
Linda
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Niall519
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...more
Willow
The Child Garden by Geoff Ryman is an amazing, amazing book. It is simultaneously a science fictional exploration of a unique and interesting future human society, a deep and true telling of what it is like to live as a closeted queer person in a homophobic society (the loneliness, the struggle to find love, the constant fear and hiding), and a profound, moving and ultimately spiritual meditation on memory and freedom. There were a few rough spots: sometimes the exceptional nature of the protago...more
Tal
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, one of the most extraordinary women of her age. This is her story and that of her friends, like Lucy the immortal tumour and Jo...more
E. Burns
This sucked me in at the first sentence and didn't let go for several weeks. It was one of the most moving, thought-provoking, utterly convincing books I've read in a long time. The science is shaky, but the social and environmental changes that results make it worth letting that slide.
His descriptions of life stages like birth and death are mind-blowing. I highly recommend it for the experience of entering another, entirely unique, world.
Michael Peters
Captivatingly intriguing look into a possible future for mankind, sans technology, replaced with a sort of biological information highway. But our protagonist is immune to the viruses used to infect people with learning and knowledge. This, as well as her body's cancerous cells make her unique in a world eradicated of cancer, which ultimately wasn't such a good thing after all it seems, what with the genetic mutations starting to run rampant that the disease kept under check. All this, plus a lo...more
Steve Cooper
Lots of interesting ideas and references with good pedigree, but there's lots of tedium in this book as well. Love the GEs, but couldn't quite square all the behaviours attributed to them. The idea of Milena's relationship with Thrawn was much more promising than the execution of it ended up being - The attempt to have Milena feel guilt about Thrawn's ultimate demise felt half-hearted and contrived to me. I lost patience with the fractured chronology and focus on detail that almost seemed like a...more
Denni
This is the second Geoff Ryman book I've read (so far!), and it's as least as brilliant as the first! It's beautifully written, stunningly imaginative, humane, thoughtful, vivid--and the last few pages repeatedly brought tears to my eyes. It's SF/fantasy, but like the best of books that fit into that category, it's much more, and has much to say about human beings and our relationships with each other as well as with all other life. It also has beautiful descriptions of so many environments, sna...more
BL834
This rating is an average. Parts were a one and parts were a four.

The beginning was awful. Bad writing, bad pacing, jarring and shallow and crap. Then somewhere along the way Mr. Ryman started writing like a real author. Surrealism became lyrical, time became fluid, emotions became complexly deep. People became real and history was being made. It all meshed and it was so good. The ending was... just an ending I suppose. You could undoubtedly read much meaning into it if you wanted to; I didn't....more
Matt Webb
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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
More about Geoff Ryman...
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“Sex complicates, but it is the power of love to simplify.” 8 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.” 4 likes
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