The Cost to Be Wise • 1996 • Planetary Romance novella by Maureen F. McHugh

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Synopsis: Veronique is an anthropologist who has been sent from Earth to a long separated planet to finish her studies and help restore contact to the primitive people.

The people of Sckarline reject technology like plastic which they can’t produce themselves. But Whiskey is their trademark product. That’s what a heavily armed band of outrunners are trying to steal.

Review: McHugh’s works have always been hit or miss for me. While I really liked her novel “China Mountain Zhang”, I simply didn’t get her story “Lincoln Train” and even couldn’t motivate myself to write a review for it. 

It’s similar here: I wasn’t able to connect to the writing, to the characters or plot. Which is strange, given that it is an obvious reference to Le Guin’s stories – anthropologist on an alien planet with problems to adapt to the foreign culture plus gender conflicts.

Also, the setting is lovely, remembering of Scandinavian ice, freezing cold, and clan-oriented societies. 

What can I say? It might be the cumbrous prose or it could just be me. Your experience might differ. Just one closing thought: I don’t need no homage to Le Guin when I always can have the far better original.

Meta: isfdb. I’ve read it in Dozois’s The Best of the Best Volume 2.

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2 Responses to The Cost to Be Wise • 1996 • Planetary Romance novella by Maureen F. McHugh

  1. pdtillman says:

    Yeah, I wanted to like this one more than I could. I wonder if I rated it? Nope, but 3 stars is about right. I actually re-read about the first third AWB, before realizing I’d already read it. The graphic murders were too much! And the Good Rescuers, too sappy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andreas says:

      Add to that the off-screen rape.
      Interestingly, Dozois put this novella directly after Le Guin’s Forgiveness Day. Of course due to the publication dates. But a comparison was obvious needed and went so bad for McHugh.


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