SHADOW MAN by Melissa Scott


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 In the latest from Scott (Burning Bright, 1993, etc.), a drug taken to ameliorate the unpleasant effects of faster-than-light travel has caused the human race to mutate into five sexes: men, women, ``herms'' (functional hermaphrodites), and two intermediate types--``mems'' and ``fems.'' On planet Hara, a bastion of conservatism, only the male and female sexes are recognized, even though the people are as variously bodied as their galactic counterparts. Hara is dominated by two powerful trader clans, the Stillers and the Stanes. Warreven, a Stiller herm, has opted to be legally a man, having refused to become a woman in order to marry Tendlathe, heir to the Stane holdings. As Tendlathe begins to manipulate the populace by way of increasing his personal power, Warreven finds himself less and less content to play the male role allotted to him. And with the friendship of Mhyre Tatian, on off- world male, he finds the means to begin the slow revolutions that will eventually topple Tendlathe and provide freedom of sexual identity for all Harans. Meanwhile, even the author--with five sexes to juggle--seems confused at times, and there's more than a touch of pretension in the pronouns she wrests into existence to accommodate them. The characters, unfortunately, all sound like twentysomethings; the plot is all but imperceptible. Yet, despite these flaws, Scott has created a persuasively functional and convincingly detailed society. Overall, then: a serious, worthwhile attempt to probe the basis of sexual politics and gender identity.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-85800-0
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Tor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1995


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