Dark Water's Embrace

( 2 )


Winner of the Specturm Award. Often compared to Ursula Le Guinn’s ground-breaking "The Left Hand of Darkness," "Dark Water’s Embrace" is a fascinating look at issues of human (and alien) sexuality. Stephen Leigh creates a rich world with elaborate care and uses this alien backdrop to delve into issues of survival, sexuality and the meaning of life itself. *****“The fact is that Stephen Leigh’s new novel is a fine piece of work and one that deserves to reach a wide ...
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Dark Water's Embrace

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Winner of the Specturm Award. Often compared to Ursula Le Guinn’s ground-breaking "The Left Hand of Darkness," "Dark Water’s Embrace" is a fascinating look at issues of human (and alien) sexuality. Stephen Leigh creates a rich world with elaborate care and uses this alien backdrop to delve into issues of survival, sexuality and the meaning of life itself. *****“The fact is that Stephen Leigh’s new novel is a fine piece of work and one that deserves to reach a wide readership.”—NY Review of Science Fiction*****
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
On the planet Mictlan, a small colony of stranded humans struggles to survive despite a diminishing birthrate and a high incidence of physical abnormalities. The cultural conflict engendered by the discovery of the mummified corpse of Mictlan's now extinct former inhabitants forces the human community to reshape its moral principles to accommodate a bold and troubling solution to their breeding problems. Like Ursula Le Guin's gender-challenging speculative fiction, the latest novel by the author of The Bones of God Avon, 1986. o.p. calls into question the issues of cultural and sexual stereotypes. Sexually explicit without being prurient, this haunting and thought-provoking story belongs in most sf collections.
NY Review of Books
The fact is that Stephen Leigh's new novel is a fine piece of work and one that deserves to reach a wide readership.
LIbrary Journal
Haunting and thought-provoking.
Feminist Bookstore News
...an exciting novel from a well-respected writer. Once again, we have a work of fine science fiction which shows us how important biology is to our destiny.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781604504019
  • Publisher: Arc Manor
  • Publication date: 11/7/2008
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,041,932
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Elena Koda Schmidt

The autumn day was as hot as any in recent memory. The temperature was nearly 100C, and Elena paused to unbutton her sweater and wipe away the sweat that threatened to drip into her eyes. Near the tree line bordering the river a kilometer away, the dark waters of a pond glittered in the sun: Tlilapan, it was called, "the place of black water." The peat-stained shallow lake was the last vestige of a much larger parent, now just a marshy wetland. Further down the peat bog, Elena could see Faika Koda Shimmura and Aldhelm Martinez-Santos--they were kiss ing, a long, oblivious embrace that made Elena feel vaguely jealous, watching. Faika was ten and had reached her menarche.

Elena suspected that her brother Wan-Li was going to be disappointed when she told him. Wan-Li had spent the night in the Koda-Shimmura compound with Faika a few days before. It seemed he hadn't quite made the impression he'd thought he had. Elena remembered her own menarche year, and how she'd experimented with her new sexual freedom.

The cart was nearly full of peat; Elena leaned her shovel against the wheel and rubbed her protruding stomach with callused hands. She loved the swelling, surprising curve of her belly, loved the weight of it, the feeling of being centered and rooted. Her roundness made her believe that despite the odds, her baby would be perfect. Her baby would live and give her grandchildren to dandle on her knee when she was past childbearing herself. She stroked the hard sphere of her womb and the baby kicked in response. Elena laughed.

"Now you be still, little one. It's bad enough without you stomping on my bladder. Mama's still got alot of work to do before we get home."

With a sigh, Elena picked up the shovel and prepared to attack the peat once more. She was working an old face, several feet down in the bog where the peat was rich, thick, and as dark as old Gerard's face. She lifted the spade.


A flap of something leathery and brown like stained wood protruded from the earth, about a foot up on the wall of the ancient marsh. Elena crouched down, grunting with the unaccustomed bulk of her belly. She peered at the fold of leather, prodding it with the tip of her shovel to pull a little more out of the moss.

Elena gasped and dropped the shovel. Protruding from the appendage, squashed and compressed by the weight of centuries of peat, was a hand with four fingers, the tip of each finger a wide knob capped with a recessed claw. The shock sent Elena stepping backward. The shovel's handle tangled between her legs, tripping her. She put her hands out instinctively to protect her stomach. She grunted with the impact, and the handle slammed against her knee. For a moment, she just lay there, taking inventory. The child jumped inside her, and she breathed again.

"Faika--" she began, but the shout came out entangled in the breath. She thought of how she must look, sprawled in the wet dirt and staring at the apparition in the peat, and laughed at herself.

"What a sight!" she told the child in her womb. "You'd think your mother was sure the boggin was going to get up and walk out of there," she said. She stood, brushing uselessly at her stained trousers and grimacing with the bruised, protesting knee.

As she stood, she saw movement from the corner of her eye. A figure shifted in the small stand of globe-trees a hundred meters away. "Faika? Aldhelm?" Elena called, but the shadowy form--almost lost in tree-shadow--moved once more, and she knew it wasn't either of the two. She could feel it, watching, staring at her. A grumbler? she thought, wondering if the rifle was still in the cart, but in the instant she glanced away to check the weapon, the shadow was gone.

There was no one there. The sense of being observed was gone. Elena shivered, hugging herself. "Baby, your mother's see ing ghosts now," she said. She glanced back at the hand hanging from the peat. "I think I just saw your kami," she told it. "Don't worry, I'm not going to do anything nasty to you. I'll leave that to Anais. Knowing her, she'll enjoy it."

She took a deep breath, and looked again at the copse of trees. "Faika! Aldhelm!" Elena shouted. "If you two can stop fondling each other for a minute or so, I think you should come here and look at this."

Copyright ) 1998 by Stephen Leigh

Dark Water's Embrace. Copyright © by Stephen Leigh. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2004

    One of the best I've read

    This was a great book! I loved the story, it mixes fantasy of the Miccail and the Science fiction of the Humans in a deep and encapturing story. It also addresses prejudices that we have today, dealing with gender. This is a must Read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2001

    An intoxicating read

    I never enjoyed science fiction until I picked this book up one afternoon. Within moments of reading it, I could not put it down. A complex story of identity, gender, and change, 'Dark Water's Embrace' swallows you up and doesn't let go. Most importantly, it makes you think and feel. Old stigmas are peeled away and examined in a rich story of personal growth, relationships, and understanding. If there is one problem with this story is that it ends. These characters are so intoxicating, you never want to say goodbye to them.

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