Grass • 1989 • SF novel by Sheri S. Tepper

★★★★

Sheri S. Tepper, Grass SF Masterworks Science Fiction #TheGateway

Meta: isfdb. SF Master works #48. SF novel of Sheri S. Tepper published in 1989.

Synopsis: A plague threatens humanity’s demise. There is the vague hope of finding a cure on the planet Grass, eponymous for a grass-covered planet with alien living forms. The planet’s human aristocracy doesn’t allow anyone to enter besides of a an ambassadorial family whose target is to find a cure.

Review: Mrs Tepper needs a very long exposition for her world-building and introduction of the main protagonists. The aliens – similar to large mounts and hounds – are a creepy factor and I’m quite glad that it didn’t develop to a horror story, which I don’t like at all. Instead, Tepper builds up tension between commoners and aristocracy, tension within the embassy family and their religious background and it evolves to a mystery story.
I found the names to be quite interesting: “Rowena” is the second growth of hay in a year, “Dimity” is a cotton fabric and “Sylvan” is a woodland.
The Grass’ hunting families are called “bon” which might be derived from German “von” (e.g. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe”) which is a nobiliary particle. Quite fitting, as the families seem to come from noble families and they behave in a decadent way (with all the fox hunting etc.). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that hunting as such is decadent – only fox hunting 😉

It is a very thoughtful story, full of philosophical discussions which are sometimes elaborated quite heavy-handed.
I don’t quite understand why this feminist author projects religions the way she did here: Catholicism isn’t known to be exactly feministic, but a woman having to support her man while he has a mistress? I mean, those two religions give an interesting contrast and the discussion of original sin and its relation to aliens gives me some thoughts. But why had Tepper to introduce those heavy-handed preachery?

It took half of the book before I managed to connect to the various protagonists like the ambassador Marjorie, Grass noble Sylvan and Brother Mainoa.
The story got really interesting as well, interleaving different facets like those fanatics who introduce the plague to salvage everyone. She manages to unwind them all in the end and bring it to a conclusion.

On the downside, she left a couple of things open like the lost Arbai culture which could be interesting but isn’t explained enough (yet). The novel should have been shorter to be more accessible.

At the beginning I tended to give the novel 3 stars, but I ended up with 4 because it picked me up in the second half. I wouldn’t recommend this if you don’t like philosophical discussions or have problems with backwards oriented religions which drive main protagonists.

 

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7 Responses to Grass • 1989 • SF novel by Sheri S. Tepper

  1. pdtillman says:

    I have the same edition you reviewed, received as a review copy (presumably) when this reprint was published. I liked it more than you did, and spelled out why here, https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/290615621 Ah, reviewed for SF site in 2002, back in those halcyon days when reviewers received physical books! I had a good run with SF Site. They ran out of money, as I recall, in part b/c of the expense of shipping review copies from Canada to the US.

    And I just came across a xref to an SF Site review by Sherwood Smith, of a book I reviewed for someone else. One of Eliz. Moon’s delightfully Wodehousian Aunts in Space books: “Rules of Engagement”, one of her strongest books. Small world. I like book reviews: writing them, reading them, learning about the reviewers craft and art. My enthusiasm for actually writing reviews has waxed and waned over the years, largely depending on how much free time I had available. Now that I’m retired, and still (reasonably) healthy — Well! I do miss the free physical books, but the eARCs serve the purpose, even if it’s a bit obnoxious to have them expire, like a library book. Except you can’t renew it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • gehmeyr says:

      For personal use, I strip off the DRM. It’s seldom that I go back and reread books but I want to be able to search through them.
      That’s why I like ebooks. Also, taking citations from them is so much easier.
      Most 5 star books I‘ll buy additionally.
      Back in the 80s, I reviewed for a fanzine around 2 books a month. Physical copies always of course, but mostly paperbacks.

      Liked by 1 person

      • pdtillman says:

        “For personal use, I strip off the DRM. It’s seldom that I go back and reread books but I want to be able to search through them.”

        Is that pretty easy? I had software purporting to do that, but couldn’t get it to work & didn’t have much reason to. Now I’m getting eARCS regularly, and it is annoying to have them expire. Especially if I haven’t gotten around to reading the book!

        I must have deleted whatever I had, when I was cleaning up the machine after an upgrade.

        Like

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