Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Sideshow (Arbai, #3)” as Want to Read:
Sideshow (Arbai, #3)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


(Arbai #3)

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  1,612 ratings  ·  67 reviews
Barbaric customs and bizarre human cults are prserved on the planet Elsewhere. The rest of the universe has been taken over by the Hobbs Land Gods, which means that everyone alive, with the exception of the people on Elsewhere, lives in perfect harmony with nature and with each other. But Elsewhere is ruled by computer-encrypted professors who have been dead for a thousand ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published November 30th 2002 by Orion Pub Co (first published 1992)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Sideshow, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Sideshow

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.84  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,612 ratings  ·  67 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Sideshow (Arbai, #3)
Michael Battaglia
I'm either getting very contrary in my old age or I just have no idea what it is I actually like. I completely expected to hate this one based on the mixed reviews from people who were fans already, especially since I find a number of the fan-favorites . . . we'll be polite and say "somewhat grating." But once it got going it . . . wasn't bad. That's not going so far as to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it, but there were very few moments where I felt a need to get a mouthguard before I gritted ...more
Chris Winters
Sep 07, 2015 rated it liked it
The third part of Tepper's "Arbai" not-really-a-trilogy, and in my opinion the weakest of the three. Whereas the first two books, "Grass" and "Raising the Stones" could easily be read independently of each other (and of this one, too), without the reader losing anything, "Sideshow" presupposes a knowledge of "Raising the Stones," and one of the big reveals is contingent on having read "Grass."
That said, it's not a bad book. Picking up where "Stones" left off, then fast-forwarding several
Another excellent piece of work from Ms. Tepper. The characters make some interesting sociological comments which have bearing on today's current events. I found this exchange (slightly edited for brevity) particularly pertinent :

Bertran commented in a dry voice, "...In our world there were a number of smallish countries ruled by unpleasant types, and our country occasionally invaded one of them to set something right..."

"Killing numerous innocent bystanders in the process," snapped Nela.

Lissa Notreallywolf
This was not one of my favorite books of Sheri S. Tepper. I was confused by the concepts she was discussing, the surgically rendered androgynous conjoined twins from the 21rst century are an interesting psychological study of privacy issues, when you share DNA and a four inch fold, one heart, etc.
The Enforcer culture is definitely sympathetic perception of individuals participating in a police state.
Elsewhere is a planet where diversity is promoted, but in a territorial way. The female conjoined
M.M. Strawberry Library & Reviews
I read this after reading Grass, and was pleased to note a couple of familiar names and faces. Personally, this is one of my favorite of Ms. Tepper's works, and the commentary on religion and tolerance amidst various barbaric practices in this book make it a worthwhile read.

This book would have achieved 5 stars if it wasn't for the Tepper-style deuz ex machina that I have come to expect from her books. This one wasn't as obvious or contrived as some of her other books (Family Tree, The Visitor,
May 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I don't know why only gave this a three star on my previous read as I was completely entranced this time around. Sideshow rounds off the Marjorie Westriding sequence of books magnificently. Tepper's idea of humanity escaping the Hobbs Land Gods because they suppressed diversity is fascinating, and the themes of intolerance masked as tolerance and religious extremism masked as human diversity are very apt for the world that we currently live in. And unlike some of the Tepper books that come ...more
Marjorie Jensen
This book is an excellent example of how science fiction can examine diversity, (non)intervention, and transcendence. Asking questions about when to intervene and when to respect cultural differences on imaginary worlds offers the reader more perspectives than asking these questions in a realistic setting--the mind is not limited to known worlds, but is free to explore new paths. Also, having a female main character (one of a strong ensemble) who is not interested in marriage and love is ...more
This one took a lot of getting into. The first quarter is terribly slow, and it takes a long time to establish who the principal protagonist is. The rest of the book is entertaining, but the conclusion deals with trancendence in a way that felt flat to me.
Also, I found the Celerians irritating, in a Bombadil-esque way.
Apr 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Jay
Page 2 - laughed out loud on the toilet - "And they were all the time dragging religion into everything, like God was watching every breath you took! Like your whole life was bugged for holy!"

Like your whole life was bugged for holy.

I love me some good bathroom reading.
Jan 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: scifi
Wonderful ideas story telling could be better, 5 stars on the idea and social criticism level, 3 stars on the charters who are developed and then neglected in favor of various axes which she grinds quite well
Feb 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Sideshow’s was an engaging enough story—it had to be, considering I kept reading despite pausing to roll my eyes every 10 to 15 pages. The writing was not up to the standard I’d expected. Every moment of exposition is miserably expositiony, far too “told,” if you will. The concepts with which Tepper engages are interesting, sure, but the way in which she goes about it feels heavy-handed at times.

The characters almost redeemed the book for me. They’re all interesting, all mostly round with a few
John Adams
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant conclusion to the Arbai trilogy, offering fascinating answers to worldbuilding questions I didn't know I had and featuring some heavy-lifting discussions about the ethics of interference and non-interference in the affairs of others.
Feb 06, 2019 rated it liked it
This is the weakest of the 5 novels I've read so far by Sheri Tepper. It's AI gone amok. I would have given it 4 stars expect for the fact that the "villains" are poorly developed and all kind of blended together for me.
Sep 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written and excellent end to the trilogy that ties all three books together. Explores the concepts of Godhood, religious freedom, and the conflict of individual, tribal rights vs those of the collective whole.
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: female
This is one of the best closing books for a trilogy that i've ever read
Kristīne Vītola
Dec 04, 2019 marked it as listed  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sff
(rd lib society?)
Martin Hüfner
Jul 29, 2018 rated it liked it
OK, it gets more confused, but all three books together form a nice, yet loose connection.
Jun 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: spec-fic
c1992: From Fantastic Fiction 'Enforcer Fringe Owldark is sent with a small crew of seven, each possessing an unusual talent, to investigate the arrival of the Hobbs Land gods on Elsewhere.'
Isabel (kittiwake)
Oct 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Elsewhere, lit by one middle-sized yellow sun and accompanied by a scattered handful of heavy little planets and moons. Elsewhere, which had been set up--so said Council Supervisory--as the last refuge of humanity from enslavement by the Hobbs Land Gods, that botanical plague that had swept across the galaxy over a millennia before, bringing, so it was said, slavish conformity in its wake.
Some of the urgency had seeped out of that claim over the centuries, during which time Elsewhere had
Renee Wolcott
Aug 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
This, the final book in the Arbai series, was something of a disappointment. Tepper can be somewhat strident in her advocacy for a human race that has enough empathy for the rest of the universe that it stops behaving like the center of said universe. While I agree with her in principle, I sometimes wish she used a little more subtlety in her storytelling, a chisel instead of a sledgehammer. In this final volume of the Arbai trilogy, the last humans who have rejected complete empathy hide ...more
May 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011
I like Tepper a lot; The Gate to Women’s Country and Gibbon’s Decline and Fall seared themselves into my adolescent brain and I think I’m better for it. I largely agree with the moral philosophy she espouses in her writing, and she tells a damn fine story. That said, one can only take so much preaching against worst-case-scenario political correctness and cultural relativism, so many straw-man bad guys who destroy the environment and perpetrate violence upon women, so much agenda, before one ...more
Dodie Reed
Apr 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
I found this book a little slow and almost put it down after the first few pages, but I know that Tepper is a very good writer so I decided to keep on and I'm so glad I did.

The overall sstory is about a band of "Enforcers" and their friends that are trying to find "dragons" that have been seen in a far land. They must go through several countries that have very different cultures. No one is allowed to move from one country to another because it would upset the "diversity" of the country. The
Stan Pedzick
May 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Among other things, a really nice satire of ineffectual international organizations and cultural relativism gone way too far. You have to wonder if we would be better off going the way of the Hobbs Land Gods. The poem Tepper includes at the beginning is also interesting:


by Koi Bashi

heaven longing ape
angel who stumbles
blind light bearer
who falls and fumbles
worshiper of error
seeker after truth
hurting and aging
lover of lovely youth
wild beast raging
craven and brave
freak of fashion
and custom's
Mikko Saari
Intriguing. I've read Grass years ago, so I noticed some of the references there, even though I've forgotten just about everything. Raising the Stones I've never read; perhaps that would've helped.

In any case, this was an interesting read – quite convoluted and perhaps somewhat too long, but the story did cover some fascinating philosophical ground for interventions, gods, diversity and what not. Not Tepper's best book, by far, but worth reading.
Sep 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
For decades I could only find the one book by Tepper Grass, but around 2002 I started to locate others and read them .... totally out of order.

Ms Tepper writes using the same characters and totally different ones; she refers to previous and later stories and also things I have not read yet (will they appear?) but the main thing I find on finishing a book like this is a sense of the best humanity can be and it's converse; although sometimes the humanity is of course displayed by an alien.
Jen Marin
Jul 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Tepper makes me think. I love hert fascinating future worlds that investigate the real issues of survival that face humanity today. This book, in particular, looks at how good ideas can mutate over time into trouble and chaos. Tolerance and diversity are good values, but sometimes holding on to what makes us different than others can drive us apart rather than bring us together. Sometimes it is important to decide what parts of our past are worth hanging on to and what is worth letting go of.

Mary Holland
Jul 20, 2012 rated it liked it
The third and weakest of the Arbai trilogy. This is the culmination of the story begun in Grass and then Raising the Stones. None of the characters are as realistic or compelling as in the first two, and the plot creaks a bit. The Siamese twins Nella and Bertram are probably the most sympathetic characters, although Fringe Owldark may be intended as a heroine. The very characteristics that make her Tepper's heroine tend to push the reader away. There are some extremely good sections, ...more
Rita	 Marie
Feb 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-sff
The last and the best IMHO of the Arbai (or Marjorie Westriding) trilogy, this one can be read alone or first, but there's a great deal that connects up to the prior two books, especially towards the end, all unobtrusively explained, of course. The sequence of events is not so important; one could easily read the trilogy in reverse.

In the story, the concepts of "diversity" and "non-interference" as practiced on the world of Elsewhere are not what the average reader would expect. As usual,
Jul 07, 2011 rated it liked it
"Sideshow" isn't my favorite Tepper book -- it's a bit too convoluted, and the plot meanders about and doesn't quite ring true -- but it's still a pretty satisfying read, with all the requisite plot points that a Tepper novel encompasses. This is the second time I've read it; I did actually enjoy it more this time around. Next time I'll try all three of the Arbai Trilogy ("Grass," which I love, "Raising the Stones," which I don't quite remember, and "Sideshow") all in a row.
« previous 1 3 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Doing Time (The Time Police #1)
  • Interference (Semiosis Duology, #2)
  • Harrowing the Dragon
  • The Stainless Steel Rat (Stainless Steel Rat, #4)
  • Sisters of the Vast Black
  • For Us, the Living: A Comedy of Customs
  • Gossamer Axe
  • Native Tongue (Skink #2)
  • Smoke and Ashes (Tony Foster #3)
  • The Copper Crown (The Tales of Aeron, #1)
  • Camelot 3000
  • Those Who Hunt the Night (James Asher #1)
  • Bloodlist (Vampire Files, #1)
  • Hawk & Fisher (Hawk & Fisher, #1)
  • Good Night, Mr. Holmes (Irene Adler, #1)
  • The Rocket's Shadow (A Rick Brant Science-Adventure Story, #1)
  • Queen of Angels (Queen of Angels, #1)
  • And Shall Machines Surrender
See similar books…
Sheri Stewart Tepper was a prolific American author of science fiction, horror and mystery novels; she was particularly known as a feminist science fiction writer, often with an ecofeminist slant.

Born near Littleton, Colorado, for most of her career (1962-1986) she worked for Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood, where she eventually became Executive Director. She has two children and is married to

Other books in the series

Arbai (3 books)
  • Grass (Arbai, #1)
  • Raising the Stones (Arbai, #2)