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[personal profile] fjm
I left this book until last because commenting is dead awkward: I read the rough draft for this as I have for Ken's books for a decade now, and I had more to do with it than I have with some of the others. Many of the arguments in the book about the oppressive potential of protectionist liberal feminism were grounded in ferocious discussions we've had over the years.

Having re read it this morning, I still think it's the best book Ken has written since Learning the World

Hope lives in a very near future Islington, where ante-natal care has become a reason to deprive women of a lot of freedom. Next on the list is a pill which protects children from lots of mild illnesses. There is a religious exemption but Hope doesn't qualify and has no intention of faking it. It doesn't help that her objections are nebulous and much more focussed on the issue of coercion than the pill itself. But when Hope resists in the face of increasing pressure, she finds she's become an "easy case to make an example of" and that she is now the focus of social workers, police, and professional resisters. It's a classic story of "little man encounters authority" and discovers the world does't work the way he thought it did. Except it's a woman. Of which more in a moment.

The book is set in one of the few future visions of Britain that I can recognise from where we are now: it's thoroughly multicultural, in a Haggis Pakora way*, in that this is no blended utopia, there is plenty of racism, institutional racism is rife and white folk can easily remain cheerfully oblivious of the experiences of their non-white friends.

The book passes the Bechdel test effortlessly: women have conversations with each other and they aren't about men or shoe shopping; it passes whatever the race version of this one is, in that non white people have conversations with each other about science and politics rather than about white people or about racism (tho there are a few of those).

It pays enormous attention to landscape, both physical and social, and it has a sly humour that keeps catching me off guard.

It has a few of Ken's trademark twitches, and a classic "huh?" kind of ending, but as he manages not to send cities into space, it's quite moderate by Ken's standards.

I like it a very great deal, in case that isn't clear.

*see Iain Banks, Whit
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