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(Winterlong #1)

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  770 ratings  ·  80 reviews
It is big and it is worth praising . ...Winterlong is a dense, graceful, bullying book of great length and much skill; it is a live tale, told in a live voice, by an author of muscle and drive and ambition; it shows the depth of talent available in science fiction. -- John Clute, "The Washington Post" Elizabeth Hand's darkly sensual debut novel took the science fiction and ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published July 1st 1997 by HarperCollins (first published 1990)
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Showing 1-30
3.72  · 
Rating details
 ·  770 ratings  ·  80 reviews

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mark monday
Feb 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
dense, poetic, sensual, at times almost dizzyingly arty in its depiction of a post-apocalyptic washington dc. i much prefer elizabeth hand's trippy trilogy (of which Winterlong is the first, and the best) to her later attempts at stylish modern gothic, which came across as half-baked to me. written at the dawn of her career, her voice reminded me of tanith lee's, except she ups the sadean stakes quite a few notches. the novel is fascinating - mutated plague children, vicious dog-creatures (aardm ...more
Jun 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A bit of cyberpunk, a bit of mythology and a bit of horror make for a perfect mix in this dystopian novel. I've been a fan of Elizabeth Hand ever since I got my hands on a copy of Black Light and this, her first novel, is probably the most incredible debut I'd ever read. Hand doesn't shy away from uncomfortable subjects and is very upfront with gore and sexuality, yet managing to avoid making it obscene. A gorgeous, unsettling, perfectly-worded and -paced novel.
Jun 11, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: dystopia-sf, women-sf
Mythical fantasy/horror clad in science fiction. In a weird post-apocalyptic world, portions of science survive: such as the Human Engineering Laboratory (HEL) where autistic children tap into patients' brains to cure their nightmares. Outside, an abandoned city is grown over with carnivorous trees and run over by bands of feral cannibalistic mutants (children caught under viral rain) and gene-engineered human-animal hybrids. Amoung them, vestiges of civilization are tended by Houses of Botanist ...more
Jun 17, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: quelle-horreur
So much potential.
Here's my thoughts on pages 1-240: WTF NO, why so many gross, disturbing scenes and perversions? Where's the plot? Is this scifi or creepy porn? Also, THREE rape scenes (one with a CORPSE??)? Thanks for the nightmares, Ms. Hand.
Pages 248-300: oo, maybe..? There's a dreamy, chill quality as the twins' voices get stronger and the story develops--OH COME ON. more grossness? A talking skeleton? Sure, why not. Thanks for the nightmare, Ms. Hand.

301-346: LOL WUT. This ending makes
Katherine Harbour
Jun 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A weirdly beautiful and disturbing fantasy set in a future after a disastrous bio-war, when dark gods roam the earth and animals speak. Science has created this fantastical world, but it doesn't seem like science fiction, with its pagan mythologies and tribal spirits. The story centers around two twins, an autistic girl and her beautiful twin brother. Separated and living in different cultures--she's a patient in a hospital run by shady scientists and he's a courtesan in a corrupt society ruled ...more
Laylah Hunter
This is one of the most gorgeous, lush, hallucinatory things I've read in a very long time; it's dark and decadent and bizarre, and occasionally it seems to lose its way in its own excesses, but mostly it's beautiful and terrible as the dawn.
Jul 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scifi-fantasy
This is the first book I read by Elizabeth Hand. I was totally blindsided by it. Her vision of the end of the world as we know it and what takes its place reads like a waking dream. All sorts of strange things inhibit these pages. Intelligent Chimps, autustic prophets, decadent, intellectual societies. There are also feral children, augmented killer dogs and scattered deadly war zones. What a trip. it has been many years since I read this and I still remember my sympathy for Miss Scarlett, the S ...more
Kevin Klein
Feb 07, 2011 rated it it was ok
Hand has a powerful command of prose, but her characters, plot, and underdeveloped setting leave much to be desired. For me, this was a classic case of "good idea executed poorly." I picked Winterlong up at a used bookstore because of a combination of three things: a cool cover, a cool title, and an interesting back blurb.

It's books like these that I wish I didn't feel compelled to finish reading everything I start. About 100 pages through I knew it wasn't for me, but I kept pushing through. It
Rich Rosell
Sep 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Elizabeth Hand has created an interesting post-apocalpytic future with Winterlong, and even though her writing is often maddeningly complex the narrative eventually takes hold and her usage of obscure words/phrases becomes more familiar and less cumbersome. To this point there's a mention in Hand's afterword about how her editor called her out for her use of "bizarre or archaic words", so that made me feel a little better that it wasn't just me.

The main storyline takes awhile to develop, yet Han
Jan 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Stylistically, Hand is a good writer. Yes, her characters are a bit lacking in dimension and her much of the book is unnecessary to the plot. But what really disturbed me was the gratuitous suffering she puts her characters (and walk-ons) through. It's more sadistic voyeurism than drama. Seriously, don't read this book if you have PTSD and written depictions of torture are triggering.

Also, like Waking the Moon, the plot revolved around the perceived dichotomy between the Masculine Principle an
Scott Rhee
Jul 22, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
A beautifully crafted novel, Elizabeth Hand's "Winterlong" is nevertheless a challenge to read, as it employs biblical references, Greek myths, and even Disney's "Pinocchio" to tell a haunting post-post-apocalyptic tale. The story follows two young children---twins separated at birth, actually---as they travel the former U.S., ravaged by viral epidemics and bio-genetic experiments run amok. This is an excellent thought-provoking science fiction novel. Hand's writing is poetic, even as her ideas ...more
May 13, 2011 rated it it was ok
I want to like it. Really, I do. I love Elizabeth Hand's two books Black Light and Waking the Moon (especially the latter). Winterlong is a different sort of book.

This is the type of sci-fi where you're dropped into a world you know nothing about and immediately expected to hit the ground running. I like some of those types of books if things are gradually explained. Nothing is explained about this world; it's written as though you already know everything. This is frustrating as hell, because I'
Angie Brill
Dec 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
I really, really wanted desperately to love this book. The bones for a phenomenal story were there. They were right there waiting to be used. The characters had the potential for much depth. The society set up did as well. To me, the downfall of this book was too much emphasis on minute setting/environment description and not enough on storytelling and character development. I felt like I had just started to get to know and understand the two main characters at the end of the book.I mean the ver ...more
Aug 24, 2015 added it
I don't really know what to say about this book. I can't say I enjoyed it, but I can't say that I *didn't* enjoy it. I haven't often seen story elements this socially shocking handled the way they were handled here. It made the whole thing weirdly powerful, an examination of individual and cultural identity that I had not encountered before. Wendy Wanders was a severely autistic person whose brain has been modified so tat she can empathically treat other people's mental disorders by absorbing th ...more
Dave Dunn
Nov 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
My impression of this book is not so much about the story as it is of the time and the place where it was written. Liz was working at the National Air and Space Museum in the mid-80s when this book was written, and the Washington DC setting, however transformed by her dystopian future, acts as a major character in its own right. I was living in Washington throughout most of 1986-87, and the places she describes - the Cathedral, the ruins of Metro Center, the wasted environs across the river - we ...more
Jun 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is an old favorite of mine (the "date finished" is for my current read-through, I first came to this book in the late '80s). The author herself describes it as, essentially, a big sprawling earnest mess with the best of intentions (it was her first book), and I suppose that would be fair, but only if you can imagine a big sprawling earnest mess of vividly realized characters, emotions sharp as knives, completely unique concepts on the border between science fiction and urban fantasy, and dr ...more
Apr 24, 2015 rated it liked it
In a futuristic dystopia, siblings from entirely different backgrounds are haunted by the same alien figure. I admire Hand's intent, and I can see how it matured into Waking the Moon, which I quite enjoyed. But Winterlong is unsuccessful. It's a feverdream dystopia, frequently creative but occasionally laborious; the characters lack agency, which hobbles the plot; the setting is evocative but piecemeal; the initially haunting image of the Boy resolves into a simplistic and undeveloped archetype. ...more
Oct 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Set in a post-apocalyptic Washington DC this book falls somewhere between fantasy and science fiction. If I had to relate it to the work of other authors I would suggest Angela Carter, Ian Macdonald and Gene Wolfe. It is as much a fin de siècle novel as it is anything else, full of lushly beautiful prose and haunting imagery. It is not an easy read. It is not for those with sensitive stomachs or a trenchant moral outlook, in other words, the easily offended. But, if you want to read something th ...more
Dec 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
A passable story is rendered almost unreadable by a writing style that doesn’t know when to stop.

Each sentence seems in search of one more adjective. Nothing is simply stated, but must be embellished with a meandering, overwrought construction that loses its meaning halfway through. Paragraphs are filled with rare zoological names and made-up vocabulary that slow any comprehension. Okay. Fine. I can sort through that. However, the unnecessary insistent need to make every noun something special p
Jul 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: at-the-library
This is the possible future in Washington DC... when the people still living there fall into a few small groups... the past has been turned into mythology or forgotten and the world is being changed by biochemical warfare and rampant genetic mutation. There's also a lot of storyline involving some primal mythic concepts and the interplay between the conscious and the subconscious that is interesting and fun. I think this read through I managed to get a lot more out of it than I have in the past, ...more
This is another used bookstore impulse buy that turned out to be a good idea. Set in a post-Apocalyptic world (you get the impression that there have been several Apocalypses, actually), Winterlong is a surreal tale of magic and old gods reawakening into a world torn and warped by science used badly. The story contains some truly unique ideas and characters and makes creative use of many concepts from various world religions and myths, all of which is made more impressive by the fact that Winter ...more
Jerry Balzano
Feb 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
4.2 stars. "A thing of terrible beauty", this novel. Not as gross as other reviewers make it out to be; really, I have one of those "sensitive stomachs" (I cannot read Chuck P. for example, even though part of me would like to), and this one, although it definitely made me cringe several times, never reached the level of repugnance. Maybe describing vile acts in beautiful language is somehow less disturbing than doing so with coarse language? I will definitely be checking out the sequel ("compan ...more
Lisa H.
Sep 21, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I was so freaked out by this book that I refused to read any of Elizabeth Hand's other books for years. Fortunately someone eventually made me read Waking the Moon, and I got over my Handiphobia, but I don't think I'll be revisiting this one.

Cold, cruel, manipulative, sadistic - yeah, the real world is enough of those that I don't need to have my nose rubbed in it. I'll admit that portions are beautifully written, but it seriously put me off.
Sandy Parsons
Jan 24, 2011 rated it liked it
For the style of writing, the creation of the mood, the setting, the eeriness, and bleak to the point of a spike in your head, I'd give it 5 stars.

However, for the same bleak spike in your head, I'd give it a one. I'm just not the audience for dystopian fiction, unless there's a whole lot of payoff, and I didn't get that from this novel. I'll definitely read more by Hand, though.
I can't remember who recommended this to me but I'm glad they did - sort of! This is the second book I've read by Hand and I'm absolutely in love with her writing (if stars were just for the writing it would be 5!) but there were a couple of things in Winterlong that disturbed me to the point I almost stopped reading a couple of times. Will look out for the sequels at some point!
Mar 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is the best science fiction I've read in a very, very long time. Because it was written by Elizabeth Hand, the queen of creepy slow horror, and because it concerns itself more deeply with psychology and mythology than technology.
Apr 03, 2008 rated it liked it
I like this novel, but because her later novels--Waking the Moon & Mortal Love, for example--are so spectacular, I have to give it three stars, in comparison. If you like sci fi, you will enjoy this one...Hand is an innovative and highly imaginative novelist.
Heidi Ward
Wow. Intricate world-building and the kind of writing that elevates genre to literary. Possibly longer than necessary, but even the parts with little narrative thrust sparkle with detail both beautiful and terrible. That's one hell of a first novel.
Suz Thackston
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I just love this book. Every time I come back to it I love it more and for different reasons. It's weird, creepy, haunting, terrifying and best of all, Dionysian.
I didn't like the rest in the series nearly as much.
But this is one of my desert island books.
Janice S
Oct 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Dark, disturbing book. Not for everyone.
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A New York Times notable and multiple award– winning author, Elizabeth Hand has written seven novels, including the cult classic Waking the Moon, and short-story collections. She is a longtime contributor to numerous publications, including the Washington Post Book World and the Village Voice Literary Supplement. She and her two children divide their time between the coast of Maine and North Londo ...more

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