Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Daughters of a Coral Dawn

I'm afraid that I cannot give Daughters of a Coral Dawn the same rousing thumbs up that M gave to Hunger Games though according to the back of the book Daughters became an instant classic. The book is written by Katherine V. Forrest and was published in 1984. It sits both firmly in the realms of science fiction and feminist literature.

The book is told in first person journals from a number of the women who figure centrally in the tale - and it is most definitely a story told by women about women for women. The story that the characters are recording is this: A group of women (about 4,000) strong bonded by love and family ties secretly outfit a spaceship and escape a future Earth (which seems to have slipped far backward in terms of social advances) to settle on a distant planet that they name Maternas. There they create their own highly beautiful and rational society free of men. In this future, a scientific advance has made it possible for women to conceive and carry a child without the need for the male half of the usual equation. Thus, the women who are all lesbians (save the character "Mother" from whom all the many generations of women have sprung) set up their own family units and live in peace and harmony. Later on in the story a ship in distress happens to discover the planet bringing men with it and the women of Maternas must make some difficult decisions about their future. The basic equation in this book is that men=strife.

Overall, I found the book a bit flat. The main characters are fairly well written, however everyone falls into one of two categories - male or female. All the men who appear have exaggerated flaws - they exclude women from important decision making, underestimate their intelligence, think its weird for a woman to be in charge, and are even rapists. The women are all strong, beautiful, compassionate - not a case of PMS in the bunch. While I agree that women have long been looked down upon in our culture and are still treated as second class citizens in many modern cultures, I had a hard time accepting the author's visions of men as evil and women as heavenly. We each have both within us.

The book was however interesting enough that I may consider reading the next in the series where it seems that because of boredom on this idyllic planet Mother has decided that she'd like to travel back to Earth to see the rest of the children who opted not to come on the trip. It's perhaps the first sign of irrationality in this wondrous culture - in other words why the hell are they going back to Earth and compromising the safety of Maternas when they just went through all this trouble to escape it 15 years ago??

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