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3.48  ·  Rating details ·  170 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Life is a richly textured fictional biography of the brilliant Anna Senoz, a scientist who makes a momentous discovery about the X and Y chromosomes. Anna’s discovery provokes widespread sexual rage and cruelly impacts her career, her marriage, and her child. Ultimately, Anna faces a challenge that the practice of science alone cannot meet.
Paperback, 370 pages
Published February 18th 2006 by Aqueduct Press (first published October 2004)
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3.48  · 
Rating details
 ·  170 ratings  ·  31 reviews

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Jan 13, 2009 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: self loathing feminists
Shelves: detested
An interesting premise bogged down by the epic soap drama of self-indulgent characters, alternately as dull as toast (Anna, Spence, basically everyone) or so incredibly annoying that I had to put the book down (Ramona)! This is one of the many books out there in which the ideas dwarf the writing.
Sep 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf-fantasy
The lyrical opening was beautiful, and the world intriguing but I almost stopped reading around page 90, it was the kind of story I didn't like, about emotions and relationships and college years and the crowd. I felt stuck in this narrow world, as stuck as the main character unable to see inside of herself or outside. I realise I have very little interest in the grit and grime of the romantic affairs of others, especially people I don't especially like. But suddenly I was deep inside the charac ...more
Aug 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013-challenge
a science-y book with women and feminists and gender issues and sf? this one should have been an easy homer for me.

but alas, it's not.

the science in the book concerns the mutation of our friend the XX. XX is not holding up well, in fact is altering to another form altogether. possibly so is XY. i'm not entirely sure, because the science is so badly explained.

not being a geneticist but really enjoying being taught stuff new to me, i tried pretty hard to understand the info when it came up. the au
Sep 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: literary nuts who don't mind a little genre with their high-mindedness
Although overwhelmingly bleak and not for the easy-to-blush, Jones's writing is top-notch and her sci-fi elements service her broader implications about women in science, and what the amalgamation of genders might do, both to personal relationships and a broader, unfocused world plagued by terror. It's hard to get through, but you never feel like you're wasting your time.
May 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: feminist, fiction
I found this book at Powell's Bookstore with the handwritten note saying that it's Margaret Atwood-level good. It so is. If you like bildungsromans from a female perspective, this is fantastic.
Nov 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, scifi, gender
I am curious about the reaction this book would get from someone unfamiliar with Jones’ other work. Her Bold as Love series is one of my favourite sci-fi universes. Unlike everything else by her that I’ve read, this novel isn’t really science fiction, although it is a speculative vision of the near future. There is even an AI, briefly. The focus, though, is on the professional and personal life of Anna Sendoz. I found her an interesting, believable, and sympathetic character. In fact, the whole ...more
Kel Sta
Jan 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who like to read philosophical novels
'...there are men, first-class men in science, who have failed to be ruthless. Where does that leave us? Dominant people behave dominantly. Talent without dominance is a fish on a bicycle.'

'A woman, instead of growing up, gives birth.'

'... the game was up. She had peaked too soon; her genius had deserted her; she had missed the crest of the wave. She would never invent a new concept of humanity. From now on, she was falling, not flying, no matter how long it took to ...hit the ground. But still,
Sep 24, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was a frustrating read. There was a wealth of promising material and thematic elements. Every last bit of it rendered so timidly without bearing narrative fruit. An earth-shattering discovery about gender markers disappearing over a few generations rendered as a tedious account of life's minutia. The plight of being taken seriously as a female scientist drowned in the excruciating details of the lives of college friends. Sexual encounters drawn out through boring prose. Politics and terrori ...more
Mar 06, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sf
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
a publisher recently said to me that 'big' speculative fiction by women is badly underrated inthe UK, and people don't buy it. Read this book to show you are missing. The book burst with big ideas, big characters and a huge story. Jones has roots deep in classic 'what if'sci fi but takes it so far beyond the straitjacket of conventional late stage capitalist patriarchy in exploring how people might behave as our technological reach extends beyond our ethical capacity. Love 'Life'!
Jan 10, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I kept hoping it would be more

I somehow had in my head that this would be science fiction. It was more of a coming of age story where the age was more like an entire life. But I found it very hard to really sympathize with *any* of the characters. They all had strangely contemplative inner monologues without ever being able to self-analyze. I read all the way to the end but never really felt like the promise was kept.
Fiona Nevada
Feminist sci-fi - what can I say? Always has a slightly different perspective, tells an original story, never sure where it's going to take you. That's not a bad thing but I couldn't recommend it to anyone I know.
Jan 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2011
I don't know whether to give this a 3 or a 5. My soul hurts.
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant novel. I could not point any faults if I tried.

Jones's depiction of Anna Sennoz, the scientist protagonist who endures and survives the hostility of the academic environment and its daily practices; her detailed, complex, elaborate human relationships, the hardships and the scars people leave in each other's lives; the way death seems to be everywhere; its genetic novum, with the TY viroid and the scandal it sets off, misteriously and purposely only fully explained in the end of the bo
Stephen Heverin
May 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Pretty intense read. Different from what I usually read, but I liked it.
Steve Kinsman
May 17, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: story-bundle
I gave up after finding myself in a long soap opera ... Not what I expected at all.
Apr 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
a very understated account of a brilliant female scientist, whose career difficulties are gender-based. the background setting is a world gradually falling into chaos based on geopolitical issues generated in our present. the research involves DNA changing, rapidly altering male/female characteristics. it's also a realistic account of a marriage from the point of view of both parties and even of the small child they share, of a number of friendships complicated over time in a culture that's very ...more
Jan 26, 2016 rated it liked it
This is a hard book.
It was hard because it is a lot of small print per page.
It was hard because it faces some unpleasant truths.
It was hard because of the serious, complicated science (doing science is hard, as well as understanding it).
It was hard because people are hard to get along with.
It was hard because... life is hard.(!)

But it was also good. For many of the same reasons.

It took me a while to get into it - it is pretty dense reading. And it moves as slowly as real life, sometimes. There a
Rena McGee
Jun 12, 2012 rated it did not like it
Life is a long ramble of a novel in which not a lot takes place except a lot of relationship drama. There are also a great many examples of covert and overt sexism which the focus character tries very hard not to notice. It takes place in the near future and among other things, involves social justice, genetic engineering, commercial science
and a mysterious possible genetic shift that may or may not have far-reaching consequences.

The book mostly follows the life of two women.

Read this review
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
Perhaps this book will appeal more so to readers in the UK, but I found that there were too many Britishisms. Sometimes the language read more like a foreign tongue than English. Also, the story is touted as sci fi, but there is such a small element of science and sci fi to the book that it should be just called literary fiction. I have a bachelor's degree in molecular biology, and as far as I can tell Jones's "science" did not compute. Evolution and complete chromosomal changes cannot happen in ...more
Adam Snider
Sep 10, 2011 rated it liked it
The rating is more for recommendation rather than my own view of the value of the book. Of the books that try to wed feminism with low-key near-future science fiction (a pretty select group), this is the best I've read, but if you're not already interested in that particular slant on the genre, it'll prove a difficult read. The nearest parallel I can think of is Neal Stephenson's Baroque trilogy - books that are not so much about a theme but about lives, with themes making occasional, glancing c ...more
Sep 24, 2011 marked it as to-read
I found this at the thrift store yesterday. It just looked odd enough. One, it is blue, two- it has a lotus on the spine, and I don't think I have ever noticed a lotus on fiction before, and three--for sci fi, the jacket design is utterly bizarre. Nice ex-library edition from Pewaukee Public Library in Wisconsin!!
Apr 25, 2010 rated it it was ok
I slogged through this book because I eventually understood the "science" in this science fiction book. Didn't like the characters and but appreciate the woman in science career and facing sexism etc. This book didn't live up to the review I had read that prompted me to read it.
May 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
a very promising premise but i couldn't like it. didn't like the characters, didn't feel the string of heartbreaking things they endure was plausible. somehow they never filled out and became real. maybe i just didn't get it.
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
(9/10) I had a nice long review typed up, and then Goodreads ate it. Bah. Anyway, book is good, two thumbs up, yadda yadda yadda.
Norman Howe
May 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
A slice-of-life novel with a bit of SF thrown in. Geneticist Anna Senoz is determined to follow her own path"," which causes havoc with her personal and professional life.
Jan 11, 2015 rated it liked it
This book will suck you into it.
Apr 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
So far, so brilliant


This book just keeps getting better.
May 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Enjoyable as a change of pace from spaceships-and-explosions fare. I'm not sure I'd read it for its own sake though.
rated it really liked it
Apr 14, 2008
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Gwyneth Jones is a writer and critic of genre fiction. She's won the Tiptree award, two World Fantasy awards, the Arthur C. Clarke award, the British Science Fiction Association short story award, the Dracula Society's Children of the Night award, the P.K.Dick award, and the SFRA Pilgrim award for lifetime achievement in sf criticism. She also writes for teenagers, usually as Ann Halam. She lives ...more
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