Friday, November 07, 2014

What A PODpeep Reads: We Who Are About To ...

I was recommended to read Joanna Russ's novel We Who Are About To.... I did, and found it very interesting. It is in many ways the opposite of my friend Jeff Duntemann's Drumlin Universe.

Russ's book is quite slim, barely over novella length. In it, a group of eight people (3 men, 5 women, counting a teen-aged girl) are stranded on an unknown planet with extremely limited tools and supplies. Our unnamed female narrator points out, quite accurately, that long-term survival is highly unlikely. Unfortunately, everybody else disagrees, and is busily making plans to colonize said planet early. Considering that they don't even know what season they are in or the length of same, this decision is the height of foolishness.

Our narrator, upon being informed that she needs to get pregnant and which of the males should do the impregnation, decides to head for the hills - literally - she packs up a small amount of supplies and leaves. This proves unacceptable to the others, and a hunting party is dispatched to forcibly bring her back. Due to luck and our narrator's hidden gun, everybody dies except her. More accurately, except for the one guy who has a heart attack, our narrator kills everybody. This is 2/3 of the way into the book, and the last third is spent with the narrator rambling as she starves.

In fairness to Jeff, his Drumlin-ites have a larger population (a thousand, IIRC) and their starship doesn't blow up, among other advantages. Many SF novels, especially of the "Golden Age," treat landing on an alien planet to colonize much the same as arriving in Wyoming circa 1870. What's not seen or portrayed is that there was a huge industrial and technological complex Back East supporting the Wyoming-ite of 1870. This complex made the settlement possible, (not easy but possible) and the lack of said complex in earlier times meant settlement did not happen.

We Who... also has interesting reflections on interpersonal behavior. The survivors are all passengers, and leadership is decided on by the physically biggest man taking over. Our narrator, after dispatching the hunting party sent to get her, then rather cold-bloodedly kills the two other women, neither of whom is a direct threat. Russ, writing in the mid-70s, has bought into the anti-hero theme popular at that time. All in all, a small but interesting book.

No comments: