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Walk to the End of the World

(Holdfast Chronicles #1)

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  388 ratings  ·  32 reviews
The men of the Holdfast had long treated with contempt the degenerated creatures known as "fems." To give themselves the drive to survive and reconquer the world, the men needed a common enemy. Superstitious belief had ascribed to the fems the guilt for the terrible Wasting that had destroyed the world. They were the ideal scapegoat. The truth was lost in death and decay a ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 214 pages
Published January 12th 1974 by Del Rey (first published 1974)
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Average rating 3.56  · 
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 ·  388 ratings  ·  32 reviews

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Let's start by determining what this book is not:

1. It is not accurately described by the back cover copy on my edition, which says,

"Alldera was a Fem, and she knew the horrors of the Holdfast, where labor fems and breeding fems were treated worse than beasts.

"She knew the legends of the free fems who roamed the scorched plains beyond the Wild.

"And she knew what she had to do."

This is not a book focused on Alldera or on the experience of the F
Pam Baddeley
First in a series, this tells of a post eco-catastophe world in which a nightmarish society, the Holdfast, is the home of the descendants of powerful white men who survived by sheltering inside a 'Refuge' along with women whom they took inside for breeding purposes. All animals, even domestic ones, have supposedly been wiped out and so have all other non-white races who are reviled as one of the elements who brought down the previous civilisation. The main scapegoat for that, however, and everyt ...more
I have this omnibus called Radical Utopias that I am currently reading. This is the first book in the volume (including The Female Man and Triton). I had never heard of this book by Charnas, or even her name, which I'm sure means I'm failing as a feminist since apparently she's a huge feminist name in the science fiction world.

This is one of those occasions where I'm not really sure how to review the book. It's the first book in the Holdfast Chronicles, and it appears there are three other books in th
Aug 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
In the mood for a good piece of postapocalyptic, feminist sci-fi? Well, then, I've got a doozy for you! Suzy McKee Charnas' first novel, "Walk to the End of the World" (1974), is just such a book, combining a tough little tale with a healthy dose of sociopolitical rumination. Taking place many years after mankind has destroyed its planet with wars and pollution, "leaving it to the wild weeds," it introduces the reader to the society of the Holdfast, a seaside community whose inhabitants subsist ...more
Viv JM
Rather grim and bleak but readable and entertaining 1970s feminist dystopia. I may extend this review when I've had more of a chance to absorb it!
Mar 04, 2008 rated it it was ok
This book was hard to read.
It takes place post nuclear holocaust. All the animals are dead, and the only humans who survived were top military officials and their wives. Women were blamed for the destruction of the world and in this new society are a degraded caste called 'fems'. Holdfast society is organized in rigid hierarchies, Seniors and Juniors divided by an age line, men and 'unmen' all of which are dead except fems. The people subsist on seaweed and marijuana--apparently the only p
Feb 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
At once prophetic and absurd, Charnas builds a far-future society resulting from far-out superstitions drawn from the Oedipal complex, and borrowing realistic cultural elements from the American slavery era. With highly nuanced male characters and only one female protagonist (who doesn't speak until the final quarter), this often feels more like fantasy satire than overt feminist social critique. The clumsy action and deadpan dialogue furthers that feeling, especially when most of it dissolves a ...more
Feb 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
As with Le Guin's The Word for World is Forest, if I had not known that this was highly regarded amongst feminist sf types I would have given this book up in the first couple of pages. Charnas is utterly devastating in her representation of men and their attitudes towards one another, and their attitudes towards women - "fems" - and towards history and power. While I don't honestly think things would go this way, it still works as a horrifying critique and savage prophecy of the outcomes of patr ...more
Feb 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: sf
I thought that this was a very good book even though I was initially prejudiced against it by the praise of a nameless critic whose views I don't particularly respect. The writing is excellent, and the melodramatic premise (that the men of the post-apocalyptic future blame “the Wasting” on the witchery of women, now degraded to a strictly separate caste of “fems” in the survivor society of the Holdfast) isn’t oppressive because SMC constructs the first two thirds of the novel from the point of v ...more
Sam Benson
Sep 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: queer
This book is a fun read - by a feminist, lesbian author - that begins a series of 4 speculative fiction books. They all take place in world post-nuclear-apocalypse that is fragmented and lacking most of the pre-apocalptic technology, societal structures, food sources, and borders. This first book in the series (written in the 70s, and very second-wave-feminismy) takes place in a small nation/society that has no contact with other societies outside their borders. They are the descendants of some ...more
Feb 25, 2018 rated it liked it
So the environment has collapsed and the survivors have rebuilt a society built on sexism and racism, where the "fems" are very much at the bottom of the pile (because they caused the whole apocalypse thing by their evil influence and witchy ways).

And that sounds cliched, but this book isn't quite what I expected, it does have interesting ideas (particularly as how homosexuality is now the norm for families as the fems are seen as less than human) and the world building gives a socie
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating dystopian and feminist novel. My major complaint is that the men are far less interesting than the women. Only a small chunk of the book is narrated from Alldera's perspective, and it's hard to care about the petty dramas and politics of the male characters, most of whom are complete shits.
Patrick St-Amand
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
I read half of it before letting go. I find the premise interesting but i can`t connect with the book at all. I may revisit eventually. ...more
May 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
Picked this series up from a trade shelf in a youth hostel in Europe. Did not know what I was in for. While I can't say I "liked" it, the series definitely stuck with me.
Nov 01, 2008 rated it liked it
One interesting niche of science fiction is that written from a feminist point of view. After all, what better way to comment on gender roles than through science fiction, where new gender-less creatures can be created or where societies can be created out of whole cloth that turn assumptions of gender roles upside down?

Walk to the End of the World is the latest novel I have read from David Pringle's list of top 100 sci fi books that has pretty much been my reading guide for the past few years:
Kirk Macleod
Apr 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
The book takes place many generations after a world-ending event called the Wasting, wherein all of mankind's natural resources ran out and the majority of the world's population died, along with most larger animals.

In the settlement called Holdfast, society is broken up in two key ways; first by age, Seniors and Juniors, who each have specific roles and rarely interact with each other in any way that isn't antagonistic, and secondly, by gender.

In the world of the story t
R.L. Martinez
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not withstanding the rather comical cover of the original release, this book was a brutal trip through a far-distant (though perhaps not as far as we think) future in which white men have succeeded in wiping out not only most of nature, but also all people of color and a large portion of womankind. What women remain are used for propagation and slave labor.

Still shocking - at least to me - in 2018, I can only imagine the pearl-clutching that went on when it was first published. Viole
Jan 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: stephane rector, trish poore, ruth clark
Recommended to Carol by: a bookriot's commenter!
Shelves: women-authors
This book becomes more intense as it goes along, and some of the most profound statements are toward the end in the relationship (not romantic) of two of the characters. Charnas says she originally wrote it as a political satire, and bits of that are in evidence, in an entirely organic and plausible way. There was one character I didn't feel that I really understood - but not in a way that took away from the larger ideas. I am surprised this book isn't more know - if you are interested in patria ...more
May 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
Oh so good. The 'fems' are kept in cages like cattle, and treated even worse. The main character breaks free and searches for her own kind. This kind of book is the reason I like man-hating Sci Fi. Recommended to Katy P. who claims she likes this kind of book.

Recommended reading from:
Nicholas Whyte
Jan 05, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, 2014, 1401[return][return]Walk to the End of the World is a horribly well-drawn future dystopia where women are enslaved and brainwashed, and doped up men fight for their own continued supremacy. It's gruesomely well depicted, though not at all subtle and a bit relentless.
Thomas Baughman
"Only one science fiction book in hundreds manages to convince the reader that it ever could have happened anywhere, and at least that few are worth reading at all. In Walk to the End of the World, Charnas has created a future that is at once believable and fascinating."

— William S. Burroughs

Richard Anderson
Jun 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Odd dystopian novel. Obliquely told, but has considerable power.
Jan 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very odd, but also compelling and thoughtful.

. . . Hopefully not prescient.
Kaaron Warren
May 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Disturbing and totally believable, I was completely drawn into this novel. Must read the next three in the series.
Sep 25, 2015 rated it liked it
My favorite thing about this book is that in the end, (view spoiler) That's what has stuck with me.
Aug 14, 2010 rated it it was ok
Recommended to D-day by: Top 100 Sci-fi list
Shelves: 100-scifi-list
Bleak, oh so bleak. Interesting in its way, but the dystopia is dialled up to eleven, which I guess was the point.
Dec 10, 2011 rated it did not like it

My status should say "gave up 200 pages in."
Mar 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: sff, feminist
This is one crazy-ass preachy piece of dystopian radical feminism! So much so that it's quite entertaining, if rather disturbing.
Melissa Ward
May 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Loved this series!!!
Bring on more utopia's!!!!
Mar 12, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Don't think it's aged very well, either as political satire or science fiction. But Charnas can write, no doubt about it.
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Suzy McKee Charnas, a native New Yorker raised and educated in Manhattan, surfaced as an author with WALK TO THE END OF THE WORLD (1974), a no-punches-pulled feminist SF novel and Campbell award finalist. The three further books that sprang from WALK (comprising a futurist, feminist epic about how people make history and create myth) closed in 1999 with THE CONQUEROR’S CHILD, a Tiptree winner (as ...more

Other books in the series

Holdfast Chronicles (4 books)
  • Motherlines (Holdfast Chronicles, #2)
  • The Furies (Holdfast Chronicles, #3)
  • The Conqueror's Child (Holdfast Chronicles, #4)