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Shadow Man

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  286 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
Melissa Scott's Shadow Man is a gripping and thought-provoking look at a strange future. In this future, five human sexual identities are recognized throughout the galaxy, and humanity has adjusted to this new culture. Except on Hara, where everyone must choose to be a man or a woman and that decision is final. "Impressive. . . . A book that compares favorably with the gen ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 15th 1996 by Tor Books (first published August 1995)
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(showing 1-30)
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Jul 11, 2013 D rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbtq, challenge, sci-fi
I'm finding it hard to string sentences together to make actual paragraphs, so let's have bullets!

- It's been ages since I actually read an F&SF book with a glossary in it. (Well, there's Kirith Kirin. But the last book I've finished with a glossary of terms is Wraeththu.

- This book is about Hara and about the Concord countries. I'm guessing post-Apocalyptic and post-generation ship (as suggested by the gods and the way the family system works). People started taking this drug to ensure safe
A very interesting story with a well-built world sadly hampered by pedestrian prose and uneven pacing. This would have been much better at half the length with half the detail (the pharma biz stuff is needlessly prominent and Tatian's inner musings in the first third of the book are nearly as pointless). I'd still recommend this for readers looking for queer-focused science fiction, though.
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 Althea Ann rated it really liked it
An extremely interesting novel by Scott, probably my favorite of all her work I've read so far. It seems to have been inspired by Anne Fausto-Sterling's 1993 essay, "The Five Sexes: Why Male and Female Are Not Enough" ( Humanity has achieved FTL travel, and colonized widely. However, the drug that allows people to survive interplanetary travel has also had the side effect of increasing mutations, causing around 25% of children to be born intersex. Throug ...more
May 04, 2011 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I'm writing this review years after the fact, but it had a great impact on me; I've been thinking about it. Reading this can be an uphill battle keeping up with pronouns and the politics of the society -- but once it clicks it is so worth it. I felt attached to the characters and was impressed at the handling of the performative nature of gender with societal restraints. It makes the reader question not only the "less progressive" society but the "more progressive" one as well. They both have la ...more
Jan 13, 2016 Johnny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another book in my series of reading sci-fi only when it’s written by women this year, I picked Shadow Man by Melissa Scott. No other reason behind it than me clicking myself through goodreads and putting some books on my to-read list.

As sci-fi introductions go, I was surprised by this one, but in a good way. Sci-fi books can take a long time in introducing you to all the worldbuilding that needs to take place, and that can be tedious, but Shadow Man never had me confused or bored (after, say, t
Apr 11, 2012 Dana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When a college course hands this book out, and then hands a cheat sheet to go with it, you know you are in for a long and confusing read. I must admit, Shadow Man was not a book I was looking forward to in my 399 class but after reading the first 150 pages in one sitting, I was pleasantly surprised.

This book challenges the way we view gender in a unique (and confusing) way. In a world made up of five genders (male, female, hermaphrodite, mostly female, mostly male), all of which have their own d
May 01, 2015 Peter rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
A tale of baroque intrigue set in a science fiction universe where humanity is divided among five sexes. The action unfolds on Hara, which counts as a backward planet because it enforces a gender binary in the face of the fact of five sexes. A contrast is provided by an alliance known as Concord, where the full five sexes are recognized but relations among them are strictly governed. Because of this anomaly Hara can sustain a vigorous trade in sex tourism alongside its official economic reliance ...more
Dec 17, 2012 Tina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, glbtq
Oh my, whatever you do don't read the Kindle-version of this book. The formating is a NIGHTMARE, to the point where you end up wanting to throw the book out of the window in a fit of rage. I really tried to look past the awful hyphenation, utterly confusing symbol-errors and behind it there is a really intriguing and original story, one that I would've really enjoyed if the text didn't look like a worst case scenario from

The combination of Kindle being (at times) unable to read ce
Jan 09, 2009 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: paper
Scott bends sex roles, and my mind. In a successful effort to be more disorienting, she tends to introduce characters well after they're involved in a scene.

Scott likes to explore gender roles, and to make thinks more challenging, she adds 3 additional human genders: full hermaphrodite, mostly-male, and mostly-female, but sets the story on a world that denies the intermediate genders. This means that every character has a 'real' gender identity, as well as a local legal gender which may be diffe
Shadow man is quite a thought provoking and interesting read. I was intrigued by the world and premise the author created around a five gendered universe. I would have loved to have a bit more depth in the personal relationships between characters but that's just because they were so great I wanted to know more.

All in all this is one of the most unique points of view I've read lately. My brain had to adjust to the introduction of new language symbols to define the different genders, and I always
Billed as "queer speculative fiction", I view this as something else. Not that it doesn't deal with both gender and sexual orientation, but it is a complex tale, dealing with multiculturalism, different understandings of what it is to be human, and has both a respect of difference and a tenderness at its heart which make it as good as anything in science fiction. As soon call Leguin's Left Hand Of Darkness an example of "queer speculative fiction" as this - it suggests a niche audience, when it ...more
Oct 29, 2014 Bev rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: m-m
Melissa Scott's world building is incredibly complex, and her "show don't tell" means that it can take a bit of time to really get into the worlds she builds. However it's usually well worth the journey and this book is doubly worth it. Hara is a complex society which is fully fleshed out.

This book really makes you think about gender and sexual identity, about the arbitrary rules our culture builds around these issues, and what it means to be a man or a woman. Or a herm, or a mem, or a fem.

Jul 23, 2015 Ambre rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not sci fi for the novice- it requires some dedication to delve into the invented idiomatic language and 5 pronouns (including one sex with variable pronouns). It is very current, however, in that it addresses the issue of invisibility as it relates to an artificial 2 gender system, which is something young people today are struggling with (in this book, 2 genders are applied to 5 sexes. It is an obvious silliness, but is any society trying to define gender identity based on sex any less ...more
Jan 16, 2009 Megan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi-magic
I read this rather than do is about a planet that is "behind" all of the other planets because it only accepts two genders and only straight pairins (you can switch to the other gender though if you are a 'herm'), whereas all the rest of the planets accept and respect 5 genders and 9 sexual identities!! (There was a drug that everyone took in order to do planetary travel that resulted in high numbers of miscarriages and all of these intersexed births...) It is hard to learn all the ...more
Aaron Rubman
If you liked This Alien Shore, Windup Girl, or Left Hand of Darkness you will probably derive some pleasure from Melissa Scott's Shadow Man.

Likewise, if you enjoy Shadow Man you should probably consider reading the other titles I've mentioned.
Jan 25, 2015 Veronica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer, sci-fi
Good scifi exploring the queer future. I wish I'd read a hard copy so I could have had better access to the glossary, though. Maybe one of my favorites of Melissa Scott's stuff, and i wish there was more set in this world.
Jul 14, 2008 Stasa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This completely got around so many of the ways I think of gender. It was good for me. :) Plus, it was a good read. Excellent all around.
Jan 25, 2009 Joanne rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Like anything else, there is shoddy and poorly written science fiction. Scott had no idea how to make sexual difference interesting and vivid for the reader.
Peter Tillman
Jul 03, 2017 Peter Tillman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reread-list
5 genders vs 2. A/A+, her best yet?
Jan 05, 2012 Shara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: no-longer-own
The premise: ganked from In the far future, human culture has developed five distinctive genders due to the effects of a drug easing sickness from faster-than-light travel. But on the planet Hara, where society is increasingly instability, caught between hard-liner traditions and the realities of life, only male and female genders are legal, and the "odd-bodied" population are forced to pass as one or the other. Warreven Stiller, a lawyer and an intersexed person, is an advocate for thos ...more
Nov 22, 2011 Serene rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: male-prostitute
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 24, 2013 Hannah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the prose was a little bland, I think that this book does the best job exploring fundamentalism of any science fiction book I've read, including The Handmaid's Tale. It has incredible resonances with today's sexual and religious politics on one side and with the Arab spring and other uprisings in repressive countries on the other. It's just so well done, especially compared to stories like The Terrorists of Irustan.
Read this some years ago. Its not the best in SF that challenges gender expectations. Exploration of the implications due to the adding of three news biological genders is left to the reader's imagination, and very little is textually explicit. Whatever...I conclude by saying I was a bit dissapointed, BUT YMMV.
Aug 09, 2013 Rain rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Disappointed as I have enjoyed a number of Melissa Scott's works but this one was abandoned early on. I dont support queer / post-modernist theory or politics, but often will enjoy an exploration of ideas even when I dont agree with the politics behind such ideas, butnot in this case.
Mar 25, 2014 Joanna rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lemmed
The cast and setting are just a little too rife with political corruption and sex work for me to get into it. It just all seems so tawdry.
Mar 05, 2016 Andrea rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A little too complicated for me - seemed like 5 parts glossary to 1 part story and all the names were too similar. Confused my little pea sized brain and I prefer to read for simple pleasure.
Clare K. R.
May 08, 2012 Clare K. R. marked it as sampled-not-buying  ·  review of another edition
Didn't hate it. I was just too confused, the story didn't seem to be starting, and you can't pronounce "%er."
Therese rated it liked it
Mar 04, 2012
Dana rated it liked it
Mar 26, 2017
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Scott studied history at Harvard College and Brandeis University, and earned her PhD. in comparative history. She published her first novel in 1984, and has since written some two dozen science fiction and fantasy works, including three co-authored with her partner, Lisa A. Barnett.

Scott's work is known for the elaborate and well-constructed settings. While many of her protagonists are gay, lesbia
More about Melissa Scott...

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