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We Who Are About To...

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  997 ratings  ·  168 reviews
A multi-dimensional explosion hurls the starship's few passengers across the galaxies and onto an uncharted barren tundra. With no technical skills and scant supplies, the survivors face a bleak end in an alien world. One brave woman holds the daring answer, but it is the most desperate one possible.

Elegant and electric, We Who Are About To... brings us face to face with o
Paperback, 144 pages
Published March 15th 2005 by Wesleyan University Press (first published January 1976)
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Average rating 3.56  · 
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mark monday
May 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
A crash landing on a planet no one knows about...

A small group of entitled jerks and optimists, ready to make a go of it, build a home, make some babies...

An outlier in that group, a "realist" who'd rather just kill herself and advises the others to do the same...

A shocking turn of events occurring a little over halfway through the novel, upending all expectations...

A book that lives to explode the tropes and clichés of space opera...

An adventure that never began...

A narrative that becomes locke
Nate D
Jun 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: civilization is fine without you
Recommended to Nate D by: Emilie / Moira
The unacceptability of outsiders. The inability of society to accept, discuss, or process perspectives that run sharply against its primary thrust. Not even so much against as just completely oblique to, even.

Essential sci-fi premise: survivors of a crash-landing on an unknown and unexplored planet.

Essential sci-fi elaboration (particularly golden era): civilization goes on! plucky survivors maintain hope, persevere against all odds!

Essential reality: if no one knows where to look for you, in th
I read The Handmaid's Tale when I was pregnant with my first child. So, of COURSE I read We Who Are About To . . . shortly after the birth of my second. Thus, the supreme inconvenience of pregnancy, the utter danger of childbirth, and the crap-shoot of infant survival were pretty high up in my mind while I read.

I don't think I've ever read a book where "survival" was the dumbest option, but I do remember a comedy bit where the guy said that in the event of zombie apocalypse, his survival tactic
Jun 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: female, novel, year-1970s
I don't always read sci-fi, but when I do, I read sci-fi that doesn't resemble sci-fi.

I read Joanna Russ.

Oh yes it's in a future and on a distant planet. But Russ makes sure that none of that matters because they're stranded. All of those gadgets and gizmos of the future matter not a wit as they slowly devolve backwards into the 21st century, 18th century, something something B.C. Humans, savages, animals.

Thus stripping sci-fi of its sci-fi-ness (well, except a few little things... the broomstic
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Jun 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
First published as a standalone book in the year and month of my birth, this vast little novel starts with a familiar sf premise: 8 space travellers marooned on a distant planet. Russ subverts the usual colonial narrative in perhaps the expected way, but then goes further, much further, questioning and exploring beyond even the relatively sophisticated remit of a feminist subversion of genre clichés. This is a great novel, set very close to the bone, to the marrow of meaning and life and oblivio ...more
First Second Books
I was amused by this book because I think it’s a reasonable example of how I’d respond if I ended up crash-landed on an alien planet with a small group of people (possibly minus the murder, but you never know). They’d be all like, ‘let’s establish the building blocks for a civilization!’ and I’d be, ‘you guys, you know that no one’s ever going to find us and we only have food for two months, right?’
Sep 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Kirk by: mark monday's 2-star review
[4.5 stars]

A nasty little sf novella in which Joanna Russ gleefully explodes the trope of the spaceship that crashes on an unknown planet, after which the survivors must form their own new society. Her unnamed main character is not down with this, and declines to go along. Violence and death follow.

So to start the eight survivors are all civilians, no scientists or brilliant engineers among them. One is a 12-year-old girl, and an early hint of Russ' mindset is when the main character (a woman i
Nov 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
I substituted this book onto my list because I figured it was time to flesh out my Russ reading instead of relying heavily on The Female Man. I didn't know what it was about before diving in, although Delany's introduction gave some unsubtle hints.

So the first-person narrator and seven other people, passengers on a hyperspace/tesseract space ship, are stranded on a random planet when the ship explodes. Delany says Russ was deliberately playing with the two contrary ideas that a) most plane crash
Tasha Robinson
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
I picked this up because I ran across a webcomic praising it to the skies, and claiming it was a satirical feminist twist on the old "surviving a spaceship crash and restarting civilization on a new world" trope, where the men immediately wanted to repopulate the planet, and the women stood up to them and claimed autonomy over their bodies. That sounded amazing, and I wanted to see where that premise went.

But that's not what the book is about at all. It's about a group that survives a spaceship
What I appreciate the most about Joanna Russ, after reading this and On Strike Against God, is how rough around the edges she is. Not in terms of her writing quality or skill--in We Who Are About To... she uses an unreliable first-person narrator and an unexpected narrative structure masterfully--but in terms of her willingness to let the negatives of experience all hang out without apology. Of course, that makes her sound bleak, so perhaps it would be better to say that she seizes on all forms ...more
John Walsh
Aug 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The most depressing science fiction novel I've ever read. ...more
Sue Burke
Dec 10, 2020 rated it liked it
A spaceship goes off-course and crashes, leaving a handful of survivors, and all but one of them are determined to survive. That one, the narrator, knows they’re all about to die. She’s shrewd, perceptive, and has a lively voice, but she is also unstable, impulsive, and unreliable.

The first half of the novel recounts her interactions with the others, and it does so stylishly and well. The second half is her stream-of-conscious reflections and ramblings about the life she is about to lose. In the
Mar 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is just a near-perfect novella, in my opinion. A fascinating take on how we face death, and how we ought to, wrapped up in a neat little sci-fi plot. Also: And ending that doesn't back away from the difficulties that death presents. ...more
Aug 18, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The way we discover new books and writers is sometimes quite interesting and serendipitous. This is how I discovered Joanna Russ’ ‘We Who Are About To…’. I read a review of Ursula Le Guin’s ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’. In the comments section, one of the commenters had recommended Joanna Russ’ book and I went and read about the book and about Joanna Russ in Wikipedia and I was so fascinated that I couldn’t resist getting it. I finished reading it yesterday. Here is what I think.

‘We Who Are About
mad mags
Oct 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Womb Raider

Caution: minor spoilers ahead. Also, trigger warning for rape and violence.

The year’s 2120 (roughly), and an unlucky group of space travelers find themselves stranded on an barren alien planet devoid of animal life. Hurled there by a multi-dimensional explosion, they have little hope of being rescued, the nature of space travel being what it is: in essence, the folding of spacetime. Do it wrong and you can end up “God knows where, maybe entirely out of [y]our galaxy, which is that du
Sometimes I get a bit confused by things from the 1970s. Like, this was definitely good, a prickly bit of hip, underground sci-fi, and I wasn't always sure what was going on, which I'm fine with but I guess isn't ideal. The last 20 pages were great. ...more
This is a mediocre book with a dreadful introduction by an author (Samuel Delany) who really should know better. Delaney's introduction mentions the Cold Equations, butchers the plot, and then quotes a critic (Katherine Cramer) who hasn't read the story either. This is the sort of hatchet job I would expect from a tabloid. Sir, you disappoint me. ...more
Whew - unsure what to say about this. Dated, sure. Very cerebral classic SFF more concerned with philosophy than story, absolutely. The stream of consciousness at the end lost me a bit even though I know it's central to the entire thing. It's very bleak. But the sheer force and rage pulsing underneath, the sparse elegance of the prose—I was knocked flat by the opening.
About to die. And so on.

We’re all going to die. The Sahara is your back yard, so’s the Pacific trench; die there and you won’t
Peter Tillman
An interesting compare & contrast with Golding's "Lord of the Flies:

Slate's Noah Berlatsky is more impressed with Joanna Russ's dystopic vision:
"Joanna Russ was neither confused nor ambivalent. We Who Are About To, released in 1977, is a clear-eyed, bleak excoriation of the interpenetration of masculinity, colonialism, and death. The short novel is about eight people—five women and three men—whose spaceship has gone off course and dropped them on a distant
Nov 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, speculative

The main gist of what I wanted to say is that We Who Are About To… is a lot more than a feminist novel. Framing the novel only as such – an easy mistake as Russ is the author of the better know The Female Man, and maybe even more importantly as identity politics is important in today’s discourse on culture – does the novel tremendous disservice. Not that its feminist stance is not important, on the contrary, and well-done at that. But I’ll refrain from elaborating further, and urge you to r
Kristian Dobson
So, me and my girlfriend decided to play a game for the first time: walk into a book store, pick a random book for each other based on the front cover alone, no reading of the blurbs, and only two chances to decline. If you decline twice, the third book has to be read.

This was the third book.

It's not something I'd pick myself but I suppose that's the point of the game: finding something out of your comfort zone; something new and (hopefully) good.

It was... okay. Good in parts, but for such a s
Nicholas Perez
3/5 stars.

I read We Who Are About To... because I wanted to see what Joanna Russ' writing was like before I read The Female Man next year for my reading classical sci-fi books as my New Year's Resolution. I will say this: I do like Russ' prose and writing. Her word choices and sentence structuring, while nothing elegant, was very well-formed for the story she wanted to tell. However, parts of this novella left me with mixed thoughts.

We Who Are About To... is a subversion of the classic sci-fi fo
Charlotte Dann
Found this book pretty insufferable, especially towards the end, despite its interesting premise and voice. I made a full video on it too. ...more
Nov 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Difficult to rate... I think if it was any longer I would have found it unbearable. As it is, it's quite difficult. Sort of a more depressing version of Russ' Picnic on Paradise in tone. This all sounds really negative, but I thought it was a genius and well-crafted story. Written in an incredibly distinct voice, it really turns the "spaceship crashed on an alien planet" plot inside out.

I need to keep reading more Joanna Russ!
Nov 18, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
I said when I finished the last book I read by this author that I would probably not read anything else by her again. However here I am, only two years later, reading another of her books. I guess I liked the cover and the blurb on the back sounded like an interesting premise.

A random bunch of people crash land on a planet who were on their way to somewhere else but instead had to make an emergency landing on the nearest habitable planet. The story is told through the narration of the protagonis
Nicole Cushing
Jul 30, 2011 rated it liked it
I stumbled upon this book at ReaderCon and decided to give Russ' work a whirl. This is the first of her books I've purchased. I'm open (but not chomping at the bit) to read her again.

I'm very much conflicted in my opinion about this novel. On the one hand, I felt it was as original and intriguing a take on alienation as I've ever read. There's a nihilism here, too, that I found appealing to contemplate. But, on the other hand, there's a matter of the late Ms. Russ' style. A blurb on the back of
Feb 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The last of my five suggested books for the uninitiated science fiction reader: Russ takes the genre to the edges of feminism and spins its clichés into gold. Read it last, and to really enjoy it, have some Heinlein or Asimov near by to compare.
Oct 08, 2019 added it
The premise of this book - that a group of humans accidentally stranded on an empty but inhabitable planet could not, and perhaps should not restart civilization there, but should instead die with dignity - is a compelling one to me. It reminded me of the philosophy of the Reds from Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy: that the spread of humanity is not an inherently ethical goal, and that even a planet (or smaller-scale environment) with no sapient life - even no life at all - has value simply ...more
Owen Townend
This wasn't as witty a premise as I was led to believe by the blurb.

We Who Are About To is not so much a satire of space colonies as it is a scathing criticism. While I agree the assumption that all women involved will happily volunteer themselves for baby-making is inconsiderate of the individual, I didn't expect it to be the tip of such a misanthropic iceberg.

The unreliable narrator is used to full effect but I'm afraid I found her thought process hard to follow, especially towards the end. Al
A small group finds themselves stranded on an alien planet after an emergency landing, and the protagonist sees no outcome but death. This barren, lonely premise subverts the golden age SF trope of impossibly populated/accommodating alien planets--a premise which is now outdated, so the subversion has become less notable. But it's still comparably unalleviated: the protagonist's relationship with death and her long struggle to die hang over the work from its first line; it lengthens a short nove ...more
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Play Book Tag: We Who Are About To... by Joanna Russ / 3.5 stars 1 7 Jul 23, 2019 01:32PM  

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Joanna Russ (February 22, 1937 – April 29, 2011) was an American writer, academic and feminist. She is the author of a number of works of science fiction, fantasy and feminist literary criticism such as How to Suppress Women's Writing, as well as a contemporary novel, On Strike Against God, and one children's book, Kittatinny. She is best known for The Female Man, a novel combining utopian fiction ...more

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