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Grass

de Sheri S. Tepper

Altres autors: Mira la secció altres autors.

Sèrie: Arbai trilogy (1)

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2,163445,888 (3.97)1 / 142
What could be more commonplace than grass, or a world covered over all its surface with a wind-whipped ocean of grass? But the planet Grass conceals horrifying secrets within its endless pastures. And as an incurable plague attacks all inhabited planets but this one, the prairie-like Grass begins to reveal these secrets - and nothing will ever be the same again ...… (més)
  1. 70
    Duna de Frank Herbert (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For the description of the planet.
  2. 10
    The Snow Queen de Joan D. Vinge (sturlington)
  3. 00
    Mother of Demons de Eric Flint (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For religion evolving; for human inhabitants as the minority.
  4. 01
    Hunting Party de Elizabeth Moon (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For horses in space.
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» Mira també 142 mencions

Es mostren 1-5 de 44 (següent | mostra-les totes)
NYPL, First time, Paper, Book Club
  lparadise | Mar 19, 2022 |
In the middle this felt like it was going nowhere and too many directions at once. Perhaps too ambitious but thankfully the last half came together to a satisfying conclusion. Could have been two books with half as many themes each. ( )
  mjduigou | Feb 27, 2022 |
Sheri S. Tepper is very much a second wave ecofeminist speculative fiction author. Her books explore themes of patriarchy, religion, misogyny, ecological destruction, the paradox of tolerance, and how do societies deal with bad actors, as individuals or as a class or as a whole society (to keep going up levels of analysis)--in other words questions of morality and ethics. She tends to rely rather too much on deus ex machina for my taste in the form of some sort of benevolent ultimate power, whether that's in the form of aliens with superior technology (Fresco) or a sentient planet (True Game) in the best animist sense of early modern ecological theories a la Clements or colonization by a fungal network that bestows collective empathy (Raising the Stones). I can sympathize with that kind of liberal fantasy about how to cure what ails mankind (and it is very much *man*kind in Tepper's stories) even as I dislike some of her presentations of how that would work.

I had heard great things about the Arbai trilogy and finally managed to round up copies of Grass, Raising the Stones, and Sideshow. And now I've read them as part of my ongoing category challenge to eliminate my fiction TBR piles. I liked them, wanted to like them, and didn't like them to varying degrees. Tepper does know how to write a plot and create a sense of suspense that keep the story moving forward, making it hard to put the book down. I appreciate the worldbuilding, the interesting and memorable characters, and the grappling with big ideas. I raced through all three books in a week.

As mentioned above, I don’t care for benevolent higher power as always the solution to social ills. I don't like the harmful stereotypes she perpetuated as part of her axe grinding and the relative lack of nuance in her characters, as interesting as many of them are. I don't like the female protagonist heading into Mary Sue territory. I do tend to agree with the criticisms about her heavy-handedness/lack of subtlety and generally preachy tone, plus some skeeviness in some of the relationships she sets up between older men and younger women/girls or the unconsciously irresistible female protagonist. People have read genocide apologism in her works—she certainly explores that issue, along with whiffs of eugenics, but I can’t decisively declare that she is pro-genocide, though she is most definitely for euthanizing/removing problematic, harmful people who are incapable of learning/transforming. She doesn’t even frame it as justice as such, more as putting them out of their misery (along with protecting the vulnerable/society as a whole). Disability activists quite reasonably give the side-eye to such arguments because all too often they are the first and most heavily impacted by such “cleansing” reforms.

Grass was engrossing, with a mystery to propel the story forward—what is causing the plague that is slowly wiping out humanity across the galaxy? And what secrets are at the center of the annual hunts of the aristocracy on the mostly isolated and unknown planet of Grass, where the humans in remote and scattered estates engage in annual foxen hunts, riding Hippae and following hounds. What is the connection among these three native species? Who’s really in charge, and what does all this mean? And how does it connect to the all of the people dying elsewhere?

The story opens with a glorious description of the planet’s landscape and then segues into Diamantine bon Damfels going on her first hunt, establishing the atmosphere of suspense and dread. It then moves to overcrowded Terra and the protagonist, Lady Marjorie Westriding Yrarier, an Old Catholic aristocrat who won an Olympic gold medal in horse events (still a thing in the distant future!). Her husband, Rodrigo Yrarier, agrees to travel to Grass as Ambassador at the behest of his uncle, the Hierarch of Sanctity, the interstellar evangelical theocracy that dominates human space, with the secret mission to discover whether the rumors of a cure and/or immunity on Grass are true. Thus the Yrarier household arrives on Grass—Marjorie and Rigo, their teenage kids, their 2 household priests, Rigo’s mistress, and a half dozen horses—and events spiral out of control from there. The narrative shifts among a multitude characters (including the horses) in multiple locations who eventually come together as the plot thickens and races along like a spring flood in a river gorge.

I liked the worldbuilding, evocative scenery, interesting alien biology (I figured out part but not all of it), likable characters, action, and general imagination involved. And yet. The story just didn’t hang together for me, particularly in terms of the science and putative mechanisms, but also in terms of the character dynamics and key plot points. From here on spoilers!

Most of the plants are thousands of varieties of grass, from fine, moss-like groundcover, to giant bamboo-like stands with few trails through their vastness. Wet areas are the only places with trees—in essence swamp forests. The famous grass gardens of the aristocratic estates supposedly were designed as firebreaks for apparently rare grassfires. No understanding of fire ecology in this story—continuous vegetation, especially grass, is not actually a firebreak. No mention of major water bodies like rivers or lakes, which could act as natural firebreaks and more importantly, sources of water for fire suppression. Apparently there’s no lightning on the planet? Otherwise, grassfires would be happening all the time, and there’d be huge swathes of land showing signs of past fires. Which begs the question of what starts the fires, and how the hell they’re stopped, and how do all the critters avoid getting killed because a grassfire with a good wind can move fast! (Of course, this becomes a key plot point too.)

Then there’s the native animals: central to the story are the hounds (the size of horses), Hippae (twice as large, so maybe the size of draft horses? small elephants?), and foxen (bigger still—massive—far bigger than any apex predator on Earth). Also important are peepers and migerers, and passing mention of giant grazers and finally smallest of all the described lifeforms are the bats (vampire, of course, maybe the size of soccer balls). All of these (except the bats and maybe the digging migerers) are quite large organisms. No mention of birds, or rodents, or herpetiles or large predators, (except the foxen and a now extinct even larger predator), or carrion eaters, or any of the myriad other functional roles of a food web. The foxen apparently eat peepers and not much else. What do the hounds and Hippae eat? What about the peepers themselves? Does anything eat the giant grazers? How do all these large organisms sustain their mass and their planet-wide populations?

The human dynamics on the planet don’t quite hold up either. Each aristocratic estate has its own servant-class village. Plus, the only urban area on the planet is around the spaceport, located in an open area surrounded by impenetrable swamp forest, keeping outside influences contained and planetary secrets intact. Turns out, a lot of the villagers spend the winter in the city. And all of them are far more educated and economically better off than the nobility. They essentially humor the aristocrats and their delusions of superiority. O rly? That’s how that works? And the aristocrats never abuse their servants such that they walk out and leave them to their isolated estates? No real class tensions at all?

Moreover, when the diplomatic party from Terra arrives, the non-aristocratic locals just open right up and help them along at first ask? No need for trust-building? Marjorie just inspires that kind of reaction with everyone? Despite her husband being a giant dick? Despite the clearly dysfunctional family dynamics?

Then there’s the whole plague thing. Not surprisingly, Grass is both the source and the solution to this pandemic that is slowly wiping out humanity. Supposedly, a virus on the planet converts the amino acid L-alanine to D-alanine, and the latter cannot be metabolized by human bodies, leading to slow decomposition and death as the virus churns out more and more D-alanine in an L-alanine universe. And Grass is the only place in the universe with D-alanine in equilibrium with L-alanine, so the virus also converts D-alanine to L-alanine in equal measure and thus people there don’t get sick. Like, that’s not how chirality and stereochemistry and metabolism work. And even if it were, it wouldn’t lead to the symptoms so vividly described in the book, any more than hemoglobin in blood binding carbon monoxide preferentially to oxygen, which certainly can lead to death, but not decomposition. So living on Grass means that the virus does not reproduce destructively in the human population, but surely, when such people leave the planet, they would become just as susceptible? How could they have generalized immunity when the putative mechanism is so location specific?

And then there’s the delivery system. The Hippae apparently would ride off with young women during the hunt every now and then, mindwipe them, and then implant an impulse to go to the spaceport and stow away with dead bats (the disease vector) in hand. Or maybe just lob them into the open hatches. This plague has been going on for many, many years, but the first time one of these naked brainless girls is discovered is after the Terran diplomats arrive? And apparently epidemiology is not a thing? Like, wouldn’t the ship crews get sick first? Wouldn’t it be easy to connect the spread with ship routes? I know that the premise is the complete suppression of information surrounding the plague by the Sanctity government, but human gossip is a thing, and ship crews, I would expect would compare notes.

And none of this even touches on the themes and issues and narrative of the story, the things that Tepper has to say about organized religion, authoritarianism, patriarchy, intimacy, etc. But this review is already quite long just discussing the first book and my inability to suspend disbelief. So I wanted to like this book, and I did appreciate many aspects of it, but in the end, I think it’s not a keeper. ( )
  justchris | Feb 5, 2022 |
Love this book, that starts out as a horsey horror store and ends...well ends so beautifully, leaving me wanting more time with the characters. ( )
  wildhorses | Mar 28, 2021 |
Reminiscent of “Dune” in its scope and detail, Sherri S. Tepper’s “Grass” tells the story of a prominent Earth family sent to a remote planet to determine the truth behind rumors that could literally save the human race.

Humanity is dying – stricken down by a plague without known cure, spreading among all the inhabited planets. Except for the planet of Grass. And rumor has it that plague victims have actually recovered while visiting there. Responding to a request from his uncle, the head of a strict fundamentalist cult which essentially rules the known human universe, Roderigo Yrarier, his wife Marjorie Westriding, their two adolescent children, and Roderigo’s mistress, set off on a diplomatic mission whose true purpose cannot be revealed for various political reasons.

From that basic set-up, Tepper thrusts her characters into a society putatively directed by the local aristocrats, who have removed themselves from the day-to-day lives of the planetary port city, establishing vast estancias on the grasslands. There they devote huge amounts of time and energy to a bizarre hunting tradition – riding great beasts (think carnivorous horses the size of elephants) accompanied by “hounds” the size of Terran horses, in pursuit of another native species they have christened foxen.

Things, of course, are not as they seem, and as Marjorie and her family try without much success to fulfill their mission, they find themselves involved with missing aristocrat daughters, a cold reception from the upper class, splinter factions from within the ruling Sanctity cult, and family conflicts arising from two people in a loveless marriage who nevertheless try to observe the tenets of a weakened Catholic church, to which they belong.

None of this, it turns out, is window-dressing. Tepper’s characters struggle with ethical and moral questions in ways that have far-reaching impacts on the native inhabitants of Grass, who are themselves much more complex and nuanced than it first seems.

The novel does drag a bit toward the end, when a major conflict has been resolved but survivors continue to struggle to do what is right, both for themselves and for the species with whom their lives have become inextricably entwined. ( )
  LyndaInOregon | Mar 3, 2021 |
Es mostren 1-5 de 44 (següent | mostra-les totes)
When I first read Grass, I realised that Tepper is a genuine wild talent, taking SF in new and unexpected directions.
afegit per lquilter | editaSF Site, Peter D. Tillman (Aug 7, 2009)
 
Tepper (The Gate to Women's Country) delves into the nature of truth and religion, creating some strong characters in her compelling story.
afegit per lquilter | editaPublishers Weekly
 
Tepper's Grass is, with hindsight, one of the most significant works of 1980s SF: a spacious, well-plotted, wise and thought-provoking book with an exceptionally well-drawn central character and a beautiful twist on the 'beauty and the beast' mythos at its heart. ... Those who have not read this powerful masterpiece should be herded with cattle-prods out to the bookshops until that situation is remedied; those who have read it should take this opportunity to re-read the work. Like all great literature, it repays re-reading and close attention. ... It is one of the genuine, and one of the most genuine, classics of twentieth-century SF.
 

» Afegeix-hi altres autors (11 possibles)

Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Sheri S. Tepperautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Chicheni, OscarAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Karjalainen, TapioTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Moore, ChrisAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Pearlman, DinaNarradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat

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A voice says, "Cry!"
And I said, "What shall I cry?"
All flesh is grass. . . .Isaiah 40-6
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And they were there. Three of them, just as there had been three horses when she and Tony and Rigo had ridden here. Three Hippae doing dressage exercises, walking, trotting, cantering, changing feet to cross the arena on long diagonals. They did everything she had done with Octavo, did it casually, offhandedly, with a practiced ease, concluding with the three animals side by side, facing away from her, the saber tips of their neck barbs pointing at her like a glittering abatis, as threatening as drawn blades. Then they turned and looked up at the place where she was hidden, their dark eyes gleaming red in the light of dawn, soundless.
Amusement, she thought at first. A kind of mime. These Hippae had seen the humans and their horses and were amused at what these little off-world beasts had been doing with their human riders. She held the thought only fleetingly, only for a moment, trying to cling to it but unable to do so. They knew she was there. They knew she was watching. Perhaps they had timed this little exercise to coincide with her arrival . . .
It wasn’t amusement. Nothing in that red-eyed glare was amused.
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What could be more commonplace than grass, or a world covered over all its surface with a wind-whipped ocean of grass? But the planet Grass conceals horrifying secrets within its endless pastures. And as an incurable plague attacks all inhabited planets but this one, the prairie-like Grass begins to reveal these secrets - and nothing will ever be the same again ...

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