Books by Maureen F. McHugh

Released: Oct. 1, 2011

"An uneven collection whose flashes of profundity are too often doused by dispassion."
All our worst dystopian fears are realized in this grim collection. Read full book review >
NEKROPOLIS by Maureen F. McHugh
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

"Beautifully rendered, but banal and thin despite the distracting multiple first-person narrators. McHugh raises some substantial issues but doesn't trouble to explore them."
Medium-future love story from the author of Mission Child (1998), etc. In an alternate world, in a country named Morocco, plain, unassuming servant Hariba has been "jessed," bonded chemically and neurologically to her employer/owner. Another member of the household is handsome, calm Akhmim, a harni (android) whose genes are part human, part artificial and whose loyalty to his owner is inbred. At first wary—harni are regarded as anathema by traditional Moroccans—Hariba comes to admire and then love Akhmim. But she also earns the enmity of her owner's wife; this becomes intolerable, so Hariba is sold. Her new owner is a kindly woman, but Hariba can't forget Akhmim; she visits him on her days off, and soon he bonds to her in a process akin to love. They run away to live in Nekropolis, a city of tombs where many poor folk make their home. Hariba, though, unable to evade the jessing, grows dangerously ill while Akhmim works as a prostitute and tour guide. With Hariba apparently dying, Akhmim seeks out her mother; she takes Hariba in but, being very traditional, drives Akhmim away. With help, Hariba makes a temporary recovery; the couple decide to try and run away to Spain, where no slavery is permitted. But, as Hariba will discover, running away merely exchanges one set of problems for another. Read full book review >
MISSION CHILD by Maureen F. McHugh
Released: Nov. 11, 1998

Science fiction spiritual odyssey from the author of Half the Day is Night (1994), etc. Teenager Janna lives in a small village on the tundra of a long-isolated colony world only recently rediscovered by Earth. She's been educated at a mission set up by immigrants from Earth to help the natives withstand the high-tech imports that would destroy the local economy. Sure enough, a local tribe of "renndeer" herders soon obtains guns and whiskey and slaughters the village; only a few—including Janna and her boyfriend Aslak—escape. Janna, given implants by a missionary, hibernates through the long, frigid winter after Aslak and their baby daughter both die. In the spring, she wanders south to a camp run by offworlders, where food and shelter are available but vice is prevalent. She assumes the identity of a boy, Jan, and drifts to the city, where she becomes friends with wheeler-dealer Mika and, thanks to her ability to speak English, finds a job. Mika becomes her lover; but, unsure of her true identity, Jan continues to live as a man and accepts an implant that makes her part male, part female. Mika, involved in some very bad business, is murdered; Jan flees to the hot lands of the south, then buys a gun and bodyguards a smuggler. Despite Jan's efforts, her employer is killed; Jan saves his niece Ming Wei and settles down on the latter's grandmother's farm before an offworld plague breaks out in a nearby town. Jan, immunized at the mission, nurses the sick and dying, and when offworlders eventually arrive to deal with the plague, she works for them as a translator. Only then does she discover that her world has a name. A panoramic, provocative, and heartfelt though inconclusive journey with a complex but perplexing heroine. Read full book review >
HALF THE DAY IS NIGHT by Maureen F. McHugh
Released: Oct. 1, 1994

David Dai is nervous about his new job. All bank executives in the underwater country of Caribe are obliged to have bodyguards, and Mayla Ling is no exception, but something about the task of guarding Mayla makes David uneasy. Perhaps it's the transition from the sunny plains of Africa to the chilled darkness of life underwater, or the random nature of terrorist attacks on government officials and other influential Caribe citizens. At any rate, David learns the routine and accompanies Mayla through her working and resting hours, always wary, always wondering how much he truly comprehends of the dangers in Caribe. After a bomb destroys Mayla's house, David descends into anonymity in Caribe's lower levels. His disappearance raises government suspicions about Mayla. Has she been harboring a terrorist? Is she to be trusted? When her application for a travel visa is denied, she recognizes her vulnerability and goes in search of David, the only one she can trust. Their journey through Caribe's underworld in pursuit of documents that will allow them to leave brings the pair close to danger and reveals their inner strengths and weaknesses. McHugh (China Mountain Zhang, not reviewed) once again creates an astonishing world, filled with utterly believable characters. If only the suspense were as real, this novel would be splendid. Read full book review >