MUTAGENESIS by Helen Collins


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 In the 27th century, after devastating wars, Earth is rediscovering its long-lost, far-flung star colonies. The most remote of these, planet Anu, may be the repository of food grasses long extinct on Earth. But when an Earth expedition arrives, geneticist Mattie Manan encounters a culture so severely patriarchal that it refuses to negotiate at all if she is allowed off the ship. Though apparently primitive, this same culture employs ``losos,'' speechless, upright human-animal hybrids, to do the work and tend the repressed womenfolk. Suspecting matters even more seriously amiss, Mattie escapes from the ship, then heads for the mysterious Eastcountry accompanied by inhibited natives Elizabeth, a gifted artist, and Erin, a mechanical-mathematical genius, whose talents gradually blossom now that their ``fathers'' are no longer present. After various adventures, Mattie is captured by the Eastcountry geneticist-whiz ``elves,'' who plan to eliminate the female sex altogether, leaving only male genetic supermen. Moreover, their leader, Gabriel, is plotting with men scientists from the ship, offering a spurious immortality in exchange for the ship itself. And, while compelling Mattie to work for him, Gabriel comes to admire her scientific and intellectual qualities, and so will force upon her the honor of treatments that will turn her into an elf. Admittedly, the premise is skewed, and it's far from certain whether the plot adds up; yet, despite the flaws, Collins's debut is a well-thought-out, powerful, and often devastating feminist polemic.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-312-85387-4
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Tor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1992