Saturday, June 22, 2019

Daughters of an Amber Noon

Katherine V. Forrest
Completed 6/22/2019, Reviewed 6/22/2019
3 stars

This is the second book in the Daughters trilogy.  In the first book, Daughters of a Coral Dawn, four thousand descendants of Mother leave Earth to form a women’s utopia on a distant planet.  Two thousand of their sisters remain on Earth for various reasons.  This book follows their story.  I didn’t find it as gripping as the first novel.  Even though this book came out eighteen years after the first, it feels like sophomore slump.  There was a lot of exposition.  Rather than showing me what happened, it was a lot of telling me what happened.  Even the ending had epilogue-like chapters explaining what had happened rather than taking me through the events as they unfolded.

The book follows the two thousand descendants of Mother who remained on Earth.  In the first book, the political and social structure was hostile toward women.  Now, a new dictator, Theo Zedera, has taken over the world and things have gotten even worse.  Specifically, he’s hunting for the remnants of Unity who have left society and are hiding in the desert.  As with the women who emigrated, these women are especially gifted.  So, they’ve built an enclave hidden by a volcano which is practically impenetrable and unfindable.  One of the women in particular, Africa, was a close friend and personal advisor of Zed before he became dictator.  She is now working to make this refuge a utopia, but bears tremendous guilt for fostering Zed’s maniacal and narcissistic ways.  The question is, how long can they remain hidden before Zed finds them?

The narrative is more or less similar to Coral Dawn.  It is told from the journal entries of several women.  This time the women include Olympia, one of Mother’s nine daughters who has taken over the role of historian for the Unity; the aforementioned Africa; and Joss, a woman assigned to Africa as a sort of personal assistant and is secretly infatuated with her.  In addition to these, there is also a third person narrative from the perspective of one of Zed’s generals which gives you behind-the-scenes insight into the workings of Zed and his henchmen.  I found the narratives of the women less distinctive than in the first book, and their characterization less formed.  I didn’t feel like I was in any of their heads, and they all more or less sounded the same.  They gave a lot of history of the women but explained rather poorly who they really were.  As characterization goes, Zed and his henchmen were better drawn than any of the narrating women.  And it was not hard to imagine the hateful workings of a narcissistic despot considering our current political climate.

I give this book three stars out of five.  It’s decent, but not nearly as good as its predecessor, which I nearly gave five stars.  It was drier with none of the cheeky humor that Mother provided.  I found it a little tougher to read, with not much going on until the end.  And the ending does wrap things up rather nicely and somewhat astonishingly.  I’m still looking forward to the final book, which won the Lambda Literary Award, though I hope it was on its own merits rather than a lifetime achievement award for someone who wrote a book that has become a classic of lesbian science fiction literature. 

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