Sunday, June 23, 2019

Daughters of an Emerald Dusk

Katherine V. Forrest
Completed 6/23/2019, Reviewed 6/23/2019
4 stars

This book is a wonderful conclusion to the trilogy which began strongly in Daughters of a Coral Dawn and continued weakly in Daughters of an Amber Noon.  Like the first, it is written from several voices’ perspectives, weaving a complete narrative that is active rather than expositional, which was my biggest problem with the second book.  The theme is that the best intentions can have unintended consequences, as the women’s utopia created on the planet Maternas gets thrown for a loop by the very odd behavior of its younger generations.  It brings in Gaia theory, that is, the theory that a planet is a self-regulating, complex system where living organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet.  The introduction of the Unity, the now ten thousand women who settled on Maternas from Earth, has tipped the balance of Maternas and the planet is now fighting back.  This book won the Lambda Literary Award for Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror in 2006, and I think it was very deserving.

The book begins with the arrival of more women from Earth on Maternas, including Olympia and Joss, two of the narrators from the second book.  They find it beautiful but notice strange behavior of the young people.  With the return of Megan the original emigrants’ leader, Minerva the historian, and Mother back to the planet, the council calls a meeting to discuss the problem with the new generations of daughters.  Due to a time warp for the people who traveled to and from Earth, fifty-five years have passed, and there are two generations of daughters who do not communicate and have left the utopia built by the founders to live on the continent of Amazonia on the equator.  The parents are distraught and have stopped having children until something can be figured out.  What follows is a journey to the heart and mind of a planet that is out of balance and doing anything it can to repair itself.

The narration this time is by Minerva, Olympia, and Joss.  There is no third person narrative line.  It works a lot better.  As I mentioned before, this book doesn’t rely as much on exposition, only in the beginning at the council where they catch the travelers up on what they’ve missed.  The voices of the narrators are much clearer this time as well.  Whereas in the second book it almost seemed like the author was popping up saying, “Now I’m Joss” and “Now I’m Africa”, the narrators here are much more distinctive and the characters are much more developed.

I’ve read some reviews where the readers thought that the book was kind of campy, but I didn’t find it exaggerated or over-the-top.  Sure, the strange children trope can get kind of campy and has been done may times, but I found it to be exciting and wonderfully weird.

It also seems that the author kind of does a one-eighty on the separatist theme.  I really can’t go into too much detail because that would be a spoiler.  But suffice it to say that she perhaps has grown a bit since the publication of the original book and has become more of an inclusivist rather than an exclusivist.

I give this book four out of five stars.  It was a short book, under two hundred pages.  Except for the fact that I had to sleep, I could barely put it down, reading it in two days.  I’m glad I read the whole trilogy.  Even though this book begins with a rundown of the basic facts from the first two books, it doesn’t begin to give you the experience that I had reading them. 

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