First, it’s bizarre. Bizarre in a fantastic fuck-your-genres way. Some thousands of years in the future, soon after the conclusion of serious galaxywide warring, people discovered that terrible atrocities had been committed upon a fragile alien race on the planet Damiem. The beautiful and sentient aliens, when tortured, exude a substance that can be processed into the most expensive and addictive drug in history. All humans were cleared off the planet except for three soldier-scientists.
Damiem is also the one place in the galaxy where the nova of the Murdered Star can be seen, and a small convoy of ultra-rich tourists have been cleared to come view the phenomenon. They include four teenaged porn stars, a noblewoman and her comatose twin sister, an artist whose specialty is “light sculpture,” a retired professor, a boy prince, and two extra passengers who were lifted from cold-sleep by accident. It’s a countryhouse murder mystery with xenobiology and time flurries. Under a gorgeous, dangerous auroreal sky.
From the outside, the book makes no sense. From the inside, the planet is fucking beautiful. Somehow Tiptree swings it, porn stars and everything. Her angle of approach on sex, sex equality, and childhood is immensely refreshing.
“Some ancient philosopher…He said, Keep the child away from other children. Don’t waste his best early years learning how to be a child. So they put him with grown-ups right from the start. Bright grown-ups, the best.”
I picked up the book after reading reviews for the James Tiptree, Jr. biography that came out last year. She was a CIA intelligence officer, co-owner of a chicken farm, and a literary enigma. There’s something touching about aging in this story, and I wasn’t surprised to learn that this is her last novel, published just 2 years before she shot her 84-year-old husband and then herself.
If you’ve read it, is it as special as I think it is? What other books are this genre-busting?