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Thursday, May 25, 2006

book 20: Life by Gwyneth Jones

It has been awhile since I finished this book, so forgive me some vagueness:

Winner of the James Triptree Jr. award, Gwyenth Jones wrote about sex and science in Life. I was intrigued by the purpose of the award, to recognize writers who tackle the subjects of sex and gender in SF, and after doing a NYPL search on Jones, I decided to read Life.

The main character in Life is Anna Senoz, a hard-working gal with a passion for science, who secretly has a hot body and a wild side. This last part is a major part of the story arc. Unfortunately, Jones likes to use the word "hole" in a sexual way. Gross. But anyway, sex, in many of its permutations, supposedly drives the plot and brings all the disparate topics and characters together, but generally I felt as if I were reading two books: one about a romance, and one a poorly researched text on sexual politics and its influence on science and academia.

The main love triangle- Anna, her American college lover Spence and crazy, mostly lesbian Ramone (oh shocking!)- lacks tension. The supporting characters, mostly older women who mentor either Anna or Ramone in some way, were more interesting and Jones managed to tell us more about them in a few lines here and there than she did about Anna in the whole book.

The scifi in Life comes in a near-future, hard science flavor, sprinkled with some crunchy AI flakes. Anna discovers (by accident) an evolutionary trend in genetics that will slowly obliterate the male sex chromasonal structure on a genetic level, showing gender to be an almost entirely constructed thing (I think, anyways. It was complicated, and I'm sure if I had liked the book more I would have absorbed the theory more fully). Her research on this project is thwarted, but her obsession grows. The science writing and the comment on women's current place in the sciences, were the best part of the book, even if Jones' writing feels labored when she tries to tie all the chromosonal hoo ha in with the plot. I was disappionted that the whole book wasn't as interesting- I'd love to read some smart, female-inclusive, hard SF. Too bad Life was not it.

Any recommendations? I'd still love to read more Triptree winners, hoping that they all don't suck as badly.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Might be worth a look.