In Newell’s (The Fisherman and the Sperm Thief, 2016, etc.) second Fenria sci-fi novel, a woman tries to legally establish her own clan.
On the planet Fenria, matriarchal rule has created a culture in which most men rove the sea as fishermen or patrolling Seaguards, and women maintain highly ordered clans. Annon Noahee is the sister of Teakh, a Seaguardsman whose sperm was stolen for breeding purposes. Both siblings are nearly 24 years old and belong to Clan Ralko as wards of their conniving Aunt Dyse. Annon, however, wants to become the grandmatriarch of her own clan and establish equal ruling rights between men and women. Fenrian society has fewer males than females, and Teakh’s desirability as a monogamous mate has ironically pushed him into stud work. When Annon makes a deal with Queen Fenna that will allow her to fulfill her dreams of forming Clan Noahee and going to law school, there’s one caveat—Annon must bear the children of an anonymous male of the queen’s choosing. Annon, in turn, insists that natural insemination take place, so that nobody’s stolen sperm—particularly a relative’s—can be used. What Annon doesn’t foresee, though, is that her anonymous donor hopes to change Fenrian society as much as she does. On this second trip to Fenria, author Newell revisits Teakh’s adventure in The Fisherman and the Sperm Thief, this time from Annon’s perspective. Once again, commentary on modern life in Western cultures is central to the narrative, most notably in passages that illustrate that matriarchies can be just as extreme as patriarchies. For example, when Annon proposes a clan run with a code of equality, she’s told that “It would destroy—yes, destroy—our most sacred institutions. Motherhood is under attack.” Newell also builds a tantalizing eroticism into Annon’s struggle; in one sex scene, for example, Annon “recognized experience when I saw it—no, when I felt it.” In the tale’s second half, though, the pace slows under the weight of the characters’ legal maneuverings, and readers may find themselves rooting for the coolly smart Annon to end an argument by simply slapping someone.
An often engaging tale of a confining society, rendered with love.