Read this book only if you want a reminder as to how incredibly sexist the sci-fi of the 50's and 60's was. Heinlein displays a disgusting amount of m...moreRead this book only if you want a reminder as to how incredibly sexist the sci-fi of the 50's and 60's was. Heinlein displays a disgusting amount of misogyny that left a bad taste in my mouth.
Out of everything that happens in this book, its the back story that appalls me the most:
First human mission to Mars will take several years and the crew has to be able to live together for years in a small space, so they must be the right psychological fit. Ok. So far, so good. The science and psychology both seem to be correct.
So the planners of the trip decide the best way to do this is if they can find several married astronaut couples who can work together. 'Cause God forbid you have people outside married, hetro couples having sex.
Slight problem crops up of not being enough qualified married couples around. An astronaut who is single and wants in on the trip finds a scientist who is a "spinster," because, like, being a woman with a science degree totally makes you unmarriageable.
So rocket ship with a bunch of married couples blasts off to Mars. The guy who married solely to get on the ship ends up hocking up with one of the other astro-ladies and the main character is conceived. The pregnant woman's husband is, understandably, upset, and after she gives birth to the child oh so obviously not his, he kills his wife, her lover and himself. His anger smokes off the page. The emotions and actions of the jilted wife are silent. In Heinlein's world, she was just a ticket to Mars.
Jean M. Auel wrote Clan of the Cave Bear in the 1970’s, so I wasn’t expecting cutting edge science in play as far as what Neanderthals were really lik...more Jean M. Auel wrote Clan of the Cave Bear in the 1970’s, so I wasn’t expecting cutting edge science in play as far as what Neanderthals were really like. Even so, she kind of lost me when she brought in the racial memory. And then really lost me when she threw in telepathy. There is this weird idea out there that our cousins where telepaths; it pops now and then in fiction – did Auel start that trend?
I suspect, having little to go on what day to day life for the Neanderthals was actually like, she made up a society based on a combination of various Native American cultures, European pre-Christian cultures, camping trips she had been on, the US Army’s How-To-Survive-In-The-Woods manual, a couple issues of Scientific America, and a whole lot of 1970’s Feminist rage towards the Man.
When Auel allows the story to tell itself, it’s quite gripping. However, her narrative voice interrupts now and then, complete jarring me out of the moment. For example:
“The plentiful supply of drinking water kept dehydration from making its dangerous contribution to hypothermia, the lowering of body temperature that brought death from exposure, but she was getting weak.”
It’s like watching an episode of Walking With Cavemen and listening to the narrator smugly list possible causes of death while watching a computer animated ancestor stumble though the wilderness.
A worse example was this:
“the challenge of competition for the sake of competition was a concept that would not take hold until the earth was tamed by civilizations that no longer needed to hunt for survival.”
Thank you Ms. Auel for reminding us the Olympics are some 20,000 or so years away. She does this every now and then, pulling the reader from the story to say: “Hey! Don’t forget - it’s the Paleolithic age!”
Um, yes, I got that, what with all those descriptions of cave dwelling and stone tools, but thanks for the reminder! Sheesh.
Oddly though, with all the smug comments from he narrator about the science going on, there was no comment on why there were so many miscarriages, still births and deformities – clearly something was wrong, and yet the narrator remains silent on the issues, despite the ardent need to tell us the chemical properties of each and every leaf and flower the medicine women use.
Another interrupting factor was the names. The Clan goes by names such as “Groov” and “Droog” which kept making me feel like I was reading a Far Side cartoon. Was the book before Far Side? Heh, it’d be funny if Auel was an influence on Larson.
There’s a ton of stuff going here as far as themes of sexual politics, gender lines, evolution, stagnation, new versues old, etc, but honestly, I wasn’t really that interested in bothering with all the unsubtle subtext – I was just in it for the adventure story. (less)