06 July 2007


I'm a big science fiction fan, but picky, and slow to find new authors. Once I find one I like, I hunt down everything I can find. That's why I was stunned, last time I was in the wonderful Women and Children First bookstore, to find this book.

Suzette Haden Elgin is a linguist as well as a novelist, and her books Native Tongue and The Judas Rose reflect that study. In these books Elgin describes a future world where women are oppressed to the extent that they are only valued for the children they can bear and for their surprising linguistic talents--needed to communicate with the technology-rich aliens who have come to trade with the people of Earth. These two books chart the women's realization that creating their own language would essentially create a new reality; ultimately the invention of Laadan enables the women to get a degree of independence from their men.

In the third book, Earth Song, which was published in 1994, but which I only discovered last month, the planet is facing catastrophe because the aliens, who were responsible for Earth's tremendous technological advancement, have abruptly departed. They have left their gadgets behind, but nobody understands how they work, and they are bound to start falling apart. Entire economies that had been based on trade with the aliens are shattered. Nobody understands why the aliens have left.

This novel speculates on the "inevitability" of human violence in some very entertaining ways. It is perhaps not as cohesive as the first two books, but it was lovely to be back in the world of a very thoughtful and interesting writer.

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