Nov 13, 11
Read in November, 2011
It is very difficult to read this in 2011. One of the characters assures himself he's "no male chauvinist!" while thumping around, whinging about how he has to include female scientists on his survey team and telling them to zip up their parkas because their t-shirts are indecently clingy. I get that this was published in 1972, when MZB had no idea what gender equality would look like in a more ideal form, but... this ain't it. A hysterical woman has already been slapped into sense, by the way. And I'm only on page 43.
...aaaand now I've finished. Oy. This was painful. I'd hoped that by going back to the spaceship part of the Darkover saga, I'd get something with men and women on equal footing - you know, sort of like the same era in Pern? Hell no! The first third of the book is relentlessly sexist, the second is some sort of psychadelic drug trip involving orgies, and then the last third? Babies. It's allll about babies. Specifically, about how every woman in the colony will have to have many children, and how they'll not be able to do any real work while breeding, and they'll enjoy it.
I do not react well to any exchange where a man is laying down the law in a "look, missy!" sort of way. And that happens constantly in this wretched book, even on topics where the male character has no authority to speak of. Do I remotely think that women who signed up for working on a colony ship would be oblivious to the implications if they were to be stuck on a colony? No, I do not. It's just so bizarre, this endless litany of women behaving like spoilt children by following careers (at least, this is how it's written) and then refusing to recognize the biological imperative of childbirth and having to be set straight by men. What the hell. There's an actual argument put forth about how modernization and career-mindedness has unnaturally bred maternal instinct out of women. Was this a leading gender studies theory in the 60s-70s?!
Gender idiocy aside, this was just a boring book. MZB isn't particularly good at intrigue or politics or... anything, really. Having inexplicably read through almost the entire pile of books my friend loaned me (reading anything at hand is a terrible compulsion), I'm ready to say MZB's a mediocre sci fi writer. They're all surface, no depth to them, she's incredibly inconsistent not just between books but within a single manuscript, her characters are boring, and if you're going to use telepathy in a book, then probably best to not also put the character's non-audible thoughts in italics as well. In almost every book, I had the feeling that something interesting might be happening in Darkover.... just somewhere other than where MZB was writing.
Having wasted a massive amount of time on Darkover, all I can say is get out now, save yourself. It's rubbish.