David Brin:Glory Season

Glory Season is a book that belongs up there with Tepper's The Gate To Women's Country and Vonarburg's In The Mother's Land(a.k.a. The Maerlande Chronicles)

What do these books have in common? Examination of gender roles, in a society where women are in control and men in a subordinate role.

In Glory Season, there are three kinds of people--men, clones, and vars. Clones and vars are both female, but with a difference. Vars and males are the product of sexual reproduction, clones of amazonogenesis, where the male is necessary for conception but contributes nothing genetically to the child. Reproductive systems have been tied to seasonal cues so that in the summer, men are more inclined towards sex and violence, and women will produce vars or male children; in the winter, men are more docile, but the women are more eager to reproduce, since at this point they will produce clone-children. (Winter is also called "Glory Season", because of an iridescent substance called glory that falls from the sky during these times. Hence the title.)

Vars, if they can find an unused niche and thrive, can found clone-families of their own, which is every var's ambition, and one in which few succeed. Males tend to be sailors; in some parts of the world, they're shut away in the summer so they don't cause trouble. They also play various versions of Conway's Game of Life as a form of recreation.

The main character is a var named Maia, who has a twin sister Leie, which makes them somewhat of an oddity--not quite clones, but closer than most vars. They leave their clan-home and set off in search of their fortunes. They quickly get separated when their ships are attacked by pirates, and for most of the book Maia thinks Leie is dead.

Maia ends up working inland, where she stumbles onto some unsavoury activities involving a drug that makes men more enthusiastic in the winter; she is found out and thrown into a prison. There she makes the acquaintance of Renna, whom she later(when they are both rescued)finds out is a male. And not just any male--a male from space.

The rest of the book involves their attempts to get Renna back to the capital. In the process, they stumble on the remnants of an ancient stronghold of men, and then of ancient technology, and try to escape from their numerous enemies. Then they have to start deciding how to deal with rejoining the rest of humanity.

It starts a bit slowly, but once Maia gets herself into trouble it doesn't let up much. Brin avoids a few of the more obvious things he could have done, and pulls out a surprise or two before the end. And it has a fair bit to say about relations between the sexes, too, though it rarely or never descends into didacticism.

%A Brin, David
%T Glory Season
%I Bantam Spectra
%C New York
%D June 1993
%G ISBN 0-553-07645-0
%P 564 pp.
%O Hardcover

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The Den of Ubiquity / Aaron V. Humphrey / alfvaen@gmail.com