Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Mission Child

By Maureen F. McHugh.

This is an expansion of the short story "The Cost to be Wise", found in Starlight 1. Interestingly, the student (secondary character) who appears in the short story was completely removed.

Janna is a young girl on a somewhat primitive world. She records in here the story of her life. I could repeat everything on the book's cover, but really, this book is much more about Janna than about sci-fi, and the state of her colony world is actually quite close to our own, if you recall that there are many, many areas who only receive the waste of America's industrialized society. We just aren't used to seeing things from their perspective.

Parts of the book are quite edgy: there are sex scenes, Janna has a pseudo-gender crisis, etc. The story and the language it's written in are quite heavy and really not light-hearted at all. Janna skips over five years in the middle in one paragraph.

So why did I finish it? The thought that kept coming to me was redemption. Janna doesn't use that word, but she calls herself (warning: spoiler about the first chapter) she is kinless and doesn't really expect help from anyone after her village is massacred. She needs someone to step down and lift her up. At the beginning 14, she seems, even at the end, to be slightly mystified about life.

I'm ambivalent about giving a recommendation. I did enjoy it, but I'm not sure why. Science fiction is really only used as the framing for the older journey-into-adulthood story. Despite the quotes on the back cover, I don't think I will read it over and over again.

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