Sheri S. Tepper: Gibbon's Decline and Fall



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Arted as a promising journey ended as a disappointing shadow of what it could have been There is some excellent commentary on gender roles and relationships here but it s lost in the noise created by an unbelievable untenable story This one should be put on one of the absolute classics list I m really surprised that it isn t talked about even now but here we are almost to the 20 year anniversary from when this first came out and it DESERVES TO BE KNOWNWhyIt belongs in the same category of The Handmaid s Tale The Power The Book of the Unnamed Midwife and many others that tackle the big issue of what it means to be a womanBut how does this stack up to the others Fantastically A group of young women become life long friends complaining about the tendency of women everywhere to make a stand and then eventually decline and fall the world dragging them down They vow to hold strong and fast and support each other meeting every year and being REAL There s something to be said for reaching for a hammer when perhaps a delicate instrument might do the job nicelyI never read anything by Sheri Tepper before and as a woman writing SF I didn t want to automatically paint her with the feminist brush and assume that because she s a woman everything she writes is cloaked in metaphors about the dichotomy between men and women just set on other planets or in the far future Fortunately for me she didn t bother with the metaphors and went straight into just spelling it outThis can probably be classified as science fiction only because its s If you only read 1 book by Sheri Tepper read this one Rating 3 of fiveSaddened to learn of Ms Tepper s death at 87 What a career Public service as director of Planned Parenthood out West owner and manager of a guest ranch and a solid authorial corpus Damned fine legacy to leaveThis was a fun read for me Tepper s prose is facile and gracile I won t say the book changed my life but it made me smile and gave me some hours of pleasure This is a smart near future sci fi at least it was near future at the time now it s ten years behind us that really brought something home to meA smart woman can write a book for other smart women about the sacred feminine and a small number of readers will enjoy itA man can write a thriller for a wider demographic about the sacred feminine and it will become so pervasive so widely read that for some people it will be the only novel they have read in their adult livesGibbon s Decline and Fall is full of eerily prescient painful truths about life as a woman in the world today and the power of female friendships Does it have any good car chases like the Da Vinci Code thoughNo No it doesn tThere is a lesson here somewhere p The first Sherri Tepper book that I read great story great heroinesI loved it The depressing thing about this terrific story with its eerily accurate depiction of just how much fundamentalist Catholics Protestants and Muslims have in common when it comes to women is not the accuracyNo the depressing thing is how many people won t read amazing speculative fiction because Ms Tepper is a woman s writer The people who most need to read stories that perfectly capture the struggle of trying to flourish as a woman in a culture that hates women are never ever going to read past the first two chaptersAssuming they see the book at all I ve read a lot of spec fic in my time and if she had been a he she d be a hell of a lot better nownAnyway Great book Not a five star because A the main human bad guy was cartoony than usual and B the story inda goes off the rails with a deus ex machina of epic proportions But it was nice to have the story end well Until the machine appeared Ms Tepper had done such a nice job extrapolating where the world is headed that I sort of wanted to crawl into a hole. Five friends from college who took a vow to always stand together But their success might depend on the assistance of Sophy the enigmatic sixth friend whom they all believed dea.

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This is a huge problem for this book and its themeTepper is concerned with the status of women and understandably so She does not pull any punches as she evaluates the difficulties both emotional and physical that women face all over the world The members of the DFC each have their own personal challenges to face I wasn t too fond of the almost comical stereotypical hick family of the Crespins However I did find Agnes most intriguing Her life long relationship with the Catholic Church culminating in taking the habit has resulted in her internalizing a lot of the sexism promulgated by that Church In the face of her fellow DFC members she puts up constant resistance taking a highly conservative and traditional stance I like that Tepper did not oversimplify the matter by making it women versus men there are women who uphold traditional gender roles just as there are men like Carolyn s husband who are allies in the struggle for gender eualityUnfortunately this is the exception rather than the rule when it comes to characterization Tepper s antagonists resonate a lot with the contemporary rise of the grassroots Tea Party movement in the United States Now there are many good conservative Americans out there and I m sure that there are even many honest members of this Tea Party who believe its intentions are noble and good But when this is the same party that courts politicians who claim God causes hurricanes and earthuakes to punish us for immorality or poor economic policy something is wrong We re not supposed to be living in the fifteenth century any peopleSo the situation presented in Gibbon s Decline and Fall does feel a little too close to reality for comfort And I m sure that there are a few people out there who are like Jake Jagger Nevertheless I worry that Tepper s antagonists are ultimately only straw men hence they actually undermine her arguments rather than strengthening them Yeah there are plenty of men who are just flat out misogynistic and openly abusive But it seems like all the men in this book fall into that role or into the role of ally like Hal and Jose are There is no grey area no in between men who are blinded by their privilege but not openly hostile In Tepper s world you are either enlightened or you are the enemyAlthough the book opens on a strong note its inner thriller becomes apparent as Lolly s trial approaches There are bugged phones burglaries desert retreats helicopter pursuits and maniacal plans for the subjugation of all womankind Carolyn and the DFC eventually decide to pool their efforts into locating Sophy the most eccentric and enigmatic member of the DFC They had thought she committed suicide but after experiencing almost spiritual visions of her for the past few weeks they are determined to find out if she is still alive At this point Tepper throws in a twist that I honestly didn t see coming It s very well foreshadowed and I guess it sort of works but I didn t like itThen the book gets even stranger culminating in Carolyn having to make a choice on behalf of all humanity And that broke me Sorry but as much as I admire what Tepper is trying to do here I cannot countenance giving a single person that responsibility Carolyn has no right to make a decision that would utterly change the nature of our species it doesn t matter that she is a good or wise person No one should have that power At that point Gibbon s Decline and Fall had run from science fiction to fantasy and back from thriller to something epic and I just wasn t willing to follow it thereGibbon s Decline and Fall has its good moments Its protagonist is a likable and strong character tragically she seems to have been transplanted to a world of caricature cardboard villains and friends This is an obstacle neither she nor the book can overcome and what st. F a teenage girl who abandoned her infant in a Dumpster Taking the girl's case is Carolyn Crespin a former attorney who left her job for a uiet family life Now she must call upon.

Sorry I just really hated this book Like I m all about feminism and women in power but was adding a lizard people species into the euation really necessary I don t think so The point could have been made without the lizard people therefore if I could give this book zero stars I would I swear sometimes I despise being an English major and being told what to read Possibly it deserves stars because it stuck with me for years between reads but the flaws IANAL but I don t think trials work like that some extrapolations of the year 2000 would have been far fetched even in 1995 the bad guys seemed a little cartoony I think most misogynists of that ind think they re not woman haters but decent guys who make a realistic valuation of women seriously she s not very good at intersectionality jumped out at me this time round On the other hand it bears remembering that people who vocally dislike Tepper mostly seem to dislike her not because of where she goes wrong but because of where she s right I love all the characters and would have loved to see of the college section It s 2000 and a strongly moralistic conservative movement is sweeping the United States of America Blaming natural disasters and the declining economy on unsavoury elements of American society the American Alliance wants to restore morality and family values Does this sound familiar In some ways Gibbon s Decline and Fall is ten years too early yet eerily prescient There is so much in here that rings true which is terrible At the same time it is a deeply flawed book with a simplistic plot that belies its attempt to tell a haunting and worthy story I really wish I could love and laud this book but every time I thought I had figured it out it just got weirderThough mostly set in 2000 Gibbon s Decline and Fall begins in 1959 when Carolyn Crespin goes off to college and befriends a diverse group of young women They decide to form the Decline and Fall Club or DFC with the stated intention that they will meet every year and pledge never to decline nor to fall that is to be themselves make their own decisions and remain strong in the face of the adversity misogyny and sexism that remains a part of their society When we catch up with them again at the turn of the millennium they are now middle aged Carolyn became a lawyer as she intended and married for love rather than the cousin her aunts and mother intended for her She has retired now but her daughter persuades her to take one case Lolly a fifteen year old girl who allegedly abandoned her baby in a Dumpster after giving birth It s up to Carolyn to defend Lolly for if she is guilty she could be sentenced to life in a suspension podYeah according to this book by the year 2000 law enforcement will be imprisoning people in a primitive form of suspended animation Minor offences merit STOP where the person remains conscious but unable to move More long term incarceration is a matter of SLEEP where the person is unconscious but continues to metabolize and age at a normal rate As Tepper points out this system might seem strange to us but it does come with several benefits Still this is a very odd extrapolation to make from a novel being written only four years prior This as well as some mentions of greater environmental distress than was apparent in 2000 almost push Gibbon s Decline and Fall into the territory of alternative history Even later there are elements that made me seriously debate whether I should shelve it as fantasy or as science fictionAll this is academic though At its heart Gibbon s Decline and Fall is almost a thriller This brings a lot of benefits despite a fair amount of courtroom drama the story zips along at a brisk pace Alas it also has a few big drawbacks namely villains that are larger than life and not in a good way Ultimately. A wave of fundamentalism is sweeping across the globe as the millennium approaches and a power hungry presidential candidate sees his ticket to success in making an example out

AJ Orde