mark monday's Reviews > Grass

Grass by Sheri S. Tepper
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Oct 22, 2012

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bookshelves: futuristik
Read from October 15 to 21, 2012

'tis the season...

13 TALES OF TERROR: BOOK 4

once upon a time there was a delightful young story named Grass by Sheri S. Tepper. this story seemed to know exactly what i was longing for: Horror in Space! and so she provided it to me. a fascinating planet full of strange multi-colored grass, bizarre fauna, the ruins of an alien civilization. a backdrop based around a particularly esoteric and semi-totalitarian theocracy. an expertly portrayed and atypical heroine who felt alive and real (and who rather reminded me of Deborah Kerr in her various classy roles). a perfect introduction to the planet's aristocrats, well-rendered through the eyes of an uncomfortable young lady on her first foxhunt. a foxhunt that is not a foxhunt, but something else entirely - something inexplicable, something horrible. a feeling of claustrophobia - but, uniquely, a claustrophobia based on an entire planet, one filled with huge living spaces and wide, windy open ranges. an atrocious plague spreading like wildfire from planet to planet. the unsettling sound of beasts stamping out a threatening dance from not-so-distant caverns. my gosh, those bizarre fauna! the various moments portraying them gazing silently and malevolently at characters, up close and even more eerily in the distant grasses... such brilliantly sinister tableaux! and those foxhunts!

this story was full of twisted emotions, strained familial relations, ambiguous motivations, intriguing mysteries, and a constant yet subtle sense of increasing dread. how enchanting! wonderful chills ensued from this delightful story. i looked on Grass by Sheri S. Tepper as the child i've never had but always wanted. a sort of Wednesday Adams-Monday. i was filled with pleasure at the sight of her.

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alas, the child grew up. somewhere around page 200, i think. that winsome feeling of terror just on the horizon, that sweet sense of horror lurking just around the corner, all the subtlety and strange wonder... vanished. it was replaced by confusing xenobiology, a didactic chemistry lecture, a ham-handed coincidence (oops, that extremely important and provocative letter just dropped out of that villain's pocket!), increasingly two-dimensional characters, an extremely lame vision of God, creepy alien sex (and not the good kind), the idea that a rebellious daughter is better off with her mind wiped clean, and repetitious obsessiveness with original sin & what makes a good wife & who is in love with who now and why and why won't they. a precocious child grew into a distinctly tedious adult.

but i will try to remember that child! because the first half or so of this book was awesome.
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Comments (showing 1-30 of 30) (30 new)

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message 1: by Traveller (new)

Traveller Review?


Andrea yes, I'm interested too. This is one of my all time top 10.


Daniel Roy Spot-on review! That's exactly how I feel about it all.


mark monday thanks Daniel! the first half was very strong, i'll give it that. a solid 3 star book for me.


message 5: by David (new)

David Creepy alien sex! Check out Harry Partridge's "Avatar" video. It's mildly amusing. "No, no, no, no! Those are my lips for playing musical instruments!" or something.


mark monday that was awesome!

"well, i guess it's no different after all".

!!!


message 7: by Traveller (new)

Traveller Thanks, Mark. That was quick service. :)


mark monday if Traveller demands it, i respond with the quickness! like so.


message 9: by Traveller (new)

Traveller mark wrote: "if Traveller demands it, i respond with the quickness! like so."

Thou shalt be rewarded, either in this life or the next, oh faithful one!


Andrea excellent review. You are right about the second half being not as strong. But wasnt that whole grass hunt thing unforgettable?


message 11: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday absolutely! imma go check the page number on that, because that was the last stop for me being excited about the novel. you are talking about the search for the missing daughter i assume.

...page 278! so quite a bit past page 200. although my discontent did begin bubbling up well before that, it was on a low simmer. did not reach a full boil until after the search party took their rest stop and we get a quick and pointless perspective from a drunken Shevlok.


message 12: by Greg (new)

Greg It's funny how some books start out so well and then end up so poor towards the end, presumably because the author lost interest in it or ran out of ideas in wrapping the story up. I read one book a couple of years ago where the first half was a fairly conventional story about animal conservation in the face of corporate corruption that seemed to be heading towards resolution in the law courts and then, all of a sudden, the result of the court case is merely summarised in a couple of pages and the text changes tack to become a story about eco-terrorism! It was as if the author hadn't settled on what type of book he wanted to write or that he got bored with the novel he was writing and decided to 'liven it up' with a somewhat far-fetched, James Bondesque narrative that sat completely at odds with the first half of the book. From your review of Grass, however, it seems that the author ran out of steam half way through and was lazy in wrapping up the narrative.


Andrea I think she has a Vision, she's written heaps, and this was the start of a trilogy and the grass hunt thing was only meant as an introduction, but omg it's one of the best few chapters she's ever written.


message 14: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday it is my first Tepper and will not be my last. i also have her Beauty on my shelf. one of these days...


message 15: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday Greg wrote: "From your review of Grass, however, it seems that the author ran out of steam half way through and was lazy in wrapping up the narrative...."

then i think i may have given you the wrong impression! my analogy of the child turning into an adult is based on the idea that all of the author's goals and themes don't start really coming to the forefront and don't start getting explored in depth until the second half of the novel. the "adult" part. i don't think she ran out of steam - actually i think that by the second half, she has gotten to a place that she specifically wants to be and where she can explore all of the reasons why she wrote this novel. and so the first part, the "child" part, is really her just setting up an atmospheric introduction (well, it is quite a bit longer than an introduction of course), putting all of her pieces in place and getting ready for what she really wanted to explore. i don't think Tepper intended to write a Space Horror... her concerns are more around spirituality, feminism/women's issues (i'm not sure that's the best phrase to use), and the nature of "the other". unfortunately for me, i preferred the atmospheric introduction with its strong elements of Horror in Space. i thought the first half was perfectly written.


Andrea mark wrote: "it is my first Tepper and will not be my last. i also have her Beauty on my shelf. one of these days..."

omg I cried buckets and buckets when reading this book. I just love Sherri S Tepper.
I used to do a lot of on-line gaming over many years, and my on-line persona is called Stavia, from The Gate to Women's Country.

mark wrote: "Greg wrote: "From your review of Grass, however, it seems that the author ran out of steam half way through and was lazy in wrapping up the narrative...."

then i think i may have given you the wro..."


Totally agree mark, she achieved something in that first half that I feel she possibly didn't intend. I think it was a fluke that it turned out so compelling. It's just such an amazing amazing few chapters.
You know, in a way, perhaps one can view that half as a stand-alone novella, it would still be brilliant and we wouldn't have that feeling of being let down from page 279 onwards. ie to view it as being complete in its 278 pages, she told the story that she wanted to, then she moved on.


message 17: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday Stavia! that book is also on my list. one of these days, my favorite mantra.

i love the idea of that first half being a stand-alone novella. honestly when reading that first half i had pegged it as a 4 or 5 star book. a masterful opening scene, followed by some very impressively rendered atmosphere & scene-setting, intriguing locations described exceedingly well, and then that great hunt for the girl. good stuff.


Andrea mark wrote: "Stavia! that book is also on my list. one of these days, my favorite mantra.

i love the idea of that first half being a stand-alone novella. honestly when reading that first half i had pegged it a..."


you can call me stavia if you want ;p


message 19: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday Stavia!


Andrea lol, you using capitals...


message 21: by Miriam (new)

Miriam a foxhunt that is not a foxhunt, but something else entirely - something inexplicable, something horrible.

A unicorn hunt?


message 22: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday ha! you are referencing another review! i think. hope.

(view spoiler)


Andrea the creepiness for me is the subversion of free will to some alien imperative, poorly understood yet still very frightening, dangerous, deadly and possibly evil.
I'm pretty sure she didn't mean to write horror, but she definitely did.
Not really unicorn-y to my mind....


message 24: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday yeah the glassy eyes, the stiff posture, the zombie-like behavior, all that subtlely depicted subjugation of the will to other beings... my God the way that hound looks at that poor girl on her first ride, i got shivers. all so brilliantly done.


Andrea I totally agree. so so brilliant.


message 26: by Miriam (last edited Nov 11, 2012 01:56PM) (new)

Miriam ha! you are referencing another review! i think. hope.

I was! Yeah, the (spoiler) sounded really creepy.

I'm pretty sure she didn't mean to write horror,

You think? Everything I've read of hers had a horror vibe to me.


Andrea Miriam wrote: "ha! you are referencing another review! i think. hope.

I was! Yeah, the (spoiler) sounded really creepy.

I'm pretty sure she didn't mean to write horror,

You think? Everything I've read of hers..."


hmmm....not to me, she does strip bare the trappings of social convention covering up underlying nastinesses though, so her writing can be a bit unpleasant at times.


message 28: by [Name Redacted] (new)

[Name Redacted] Your feeling about this book remind me of my recent feelings about Redshirts. It's always disappointing when a book grows up to be so much less than its potential originally allowed.


message 29: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday i've read so many mixed or begrudgingly 'good' reviews of Redshirts that i'm hesitant to even put it on my to-read list.


message 30: by [Name Redacted] (new)

[Name Redacted] The first half is great. The second half is basically a retread of his far superior Agent to the Stars.


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