Grace's Reviews > Darkover Landfall

Darkover Landfall by Marion Zimmer Bradley
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's review
Nov 13, 2011

did not like it
Read in November, 2011

It is very difficult to read this in 2011. One of the characters assures himself he's "no male chauvinist!" while thumping around, whinging about how he has to include female scientists on his survey team and telling them to zip up their parkas because their t-shirts are indecently clingy. I get that this was published in 1972, when MZB had no idea what gender equality would look like in a more ideal form, but... this ain't it. A hysterical woman has already been slapped into sense, by the way. And I'm only on page 43.

...aaaand now I've finished. Oy. This was painful. I'd hoped that by going back to the spaceship part of the Darkover saga, I'd get something with men and women on equal footing - you know, sort of like the same era in Pern? Hell no! The first third of the book is relentlessly sexist, the second is some sort of psychadelic drug trip involving orgies, and then the last third? Babies. It's allll about babies. Specifically, about how every woman in the colony will have to have many children, and how they'll not be able to do any real work while breeding, and they'll enjoy it.

I do not react well to any exchange where a man is laying down the law in a "look, missy!" sort of way. And that happens constantly in this wretched book, even on topics where the male character has no authority to speak of. Do I remotely think that women who signed up for working on a colony ship would be oblivious to the implications if they were to be stuck on a colony? No, I do not. It's just so bizarre, this endless litany of women behaving like spoilt children by following careers (at least, this is how it's written) and then refusing to recognize the biological imperative of childbirth and having to be set straight by men. What the hell. There's an actual argument put forth about how modernization and career-mindedness has unnaturally bred maternal instinct out of women. Was this a leading gender studies theory in the 60s-70s?!

Gender idiocy aside, this was just a boring book. MZB isn't particularly good at intrigue or politics or... anything, really. Having inexplicably read through almost the entire pile of books my friend loaned me (reading anything at hand is a terrible compulsion), I'm ready to say MZB's a mediocre sci fi writer. They're all surface, no depth to them, she's incredibly inconsistent not just between books but within a single manuscript, her characters are boring, and if you're going to use telepathy in a book, then probably best to not also put the character's non-audible thoughts in italics as well. In almost every book, I had the feeling that something interesting might be happening in Darkover.... just somewhere other than where MZB was writing.

Having wasted a massive amount of time on Darkover, all I can say is get out now, save yourself. It's rubbish.
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09/15/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Meg (new) - added it

Meg M I haven't read the book, I was just looking over reviews before I decided whether it was worth tracking down.

I work as an A/V tech, which is a male-dominated field. I'm often the only lady tech working in a show, and even though it's 2013 I still get guys talking down to me as if I'm some sort of little girl who's touched in the head. Just this week I had a guy - in his late 20's - say to me in a very condescending tone, "Want me to teach you how to do that?" I already knew how to do what he was going to show me, but I told him to go ahead and went back to reading my book while he babbled on.

I get this all the time. I might carry an 8' ladder into a ballroom and climb right up to hang lights. Grown men I've never met before will say things like, "Wow! Look at you go! You are woman, hear you roar! Great job, honey!"

Sexism is alive and well in 2013, I assure you. And it's not just men. Women see me hauling 10' sticks of truss off a delivery truck and say things like, "Can't you find a man to help you with that?" Or they see me adjusting a sound board and ask, "Where did that guy go who was here earlier?" as if that guy would obviously be better at this task because he's a guy. I was changing my wiper blades in a parking lot once and two women walked by and said, "If you dressed better you could find a man and not have to do this."

There's a woman in the maintenance department at my work (also a male-dominated field) who gets these same reactions. We swap these stories all the time.

The rest of your review assures me that I'd be just as exasperated with that book as you were, but I just wanted to let you know that your point about it being dated isn't entirely accurate. Yeah, it's not as commonplace as it was in the 70s, but if you're a lady doing a man's job, it's still pretty much everywhere.

message 2: by Grace (last edited Mar 15, 2013 10:04AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace That's fair, Meg - all good points. In my job I work with web developers, and programming is a male-dominated field. But there's a peculiar divide I've seen, which is that guys under the age of about 45 might say something sexist/condescending/insulting and all I have to do is go "...realllly" and they sort of blush and stammer, but the over-55 set have an entirely different flavor of almost defiant sexism. I once had a guy haul me into a meeting with our bosses and he spent the entire meeting pointing at me without looking at me and saying "she doesn't know what she's doing!" and "I'm supposed to take HER word for it?". Half hour meeting and he never looked at me or said my name. All "she" and "her" and "that girl". It was kind of amazing.

It's that total lack of awareness that I found shocking in MZB's writing. Her characters are blatantly sexist and misogynistic and it doesn't get pushback. The atmosphere is one where sexism is clearly so ingrained that no one even thinks to counter it, and that struck me as very odd in a society where women have advanced degrees and positions of responsibility that indicate they're considered almost as capable as men on the team. There's no real voice in this book that highlights the gender struggle, because there is no struggle. Inexplicably, these highly-trained women just take it without comment. Like where you let the 20 year old do his thing and ignored him in favor of a book - that's a clear physical signal that you think he's being a pompous idiot. But that's nowhere in the book, even those small physical reactions that would tell you the women of Darkover have an internal life that notes sexism and think it blows.

I guess what I'm saying is that sexism is alive and well no matter what the time period, but at least these days there's a general awareness that when that guy tries to tell you how to do the job you've been doing for a decade, he's being a condescending ass.

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

thanks for the review. I work IT/Tech Support so I guess I can't really add anything you don't already know. I've seen MZB pop up many times and been thinking about reading her scifi works but now I guess I'll just skip that part.

message 4: by Kimberly (new)

Kimberly Berger Grace i think you need to calm down just a bit. History is history get over it. We now have rights and fight a regular battle. But come on a little harsh. Think what it was like in 1972. Now a days, women do more harm to women then most men do!

Grace "Calm down, get over it"... Yeah, excellent start to a discussion about gender politics. Sigh.

As I noted in the review, it's hard to read the book now BECAUSE it was written back in 1972. That said, when you're writing about a futuristic scenario, I'd expect there to be some consideration of how gender politics might evolve in future. By 1972 colleges were going coed, the arc was already in motion. But MZB pulled this weird trick where she wrote women who were inexplicably the flip of the real world: they had the titles, but not the reason to hold them. She wrote childlike women. It annoyed me.

And no, women do not do more harm than men do.A societal structure that confers preference onto men, so that it's all too easy to passively fall into the trap of believing this is "just how things are" rather than understanding the mechanisms that cause that privilege to exist... THAT is hurting us all.

message 6: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Powers Thank you for writing this honest review of a book often heralded just because it was written by a female author. I am spending a year trying to read genre fiction written by women and PoC. You have saved me from putting this on my list.

Yzabel Ginsberg I'm having similar feelings so far, and I'm, what, 25% on?
(Rereading this series now I used to love it when I was 12-13, but I suspect it definitely won't be the same anymore. :/)

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