Six Moon Danceby Sheri S. Tepper
It was many years ago that humans came and settled the world of Newholme-cruelly bending the planet to their will; setting down roots and raising up cities and farms and a grand temple to their goddess.But now the ground itself is shaking with ever-increasing violence. And the Great Questioner, official arbiter of the Council of Worlds, has come to this isolated orb to investigate rumors of a terrible secret that lies buried deep within Newholme's past--a past that is not dead, not completely. And it will fall to Mouche, a beautiful youth of uncommon cleverness and spirit, to save his imperiled home by dicovering and embracing that which makes him unique among humans. For every living thing on newholme is doomed, unless Mouche can appease something dark and terrible that is coiled within...and surrender to the mysterious ecstatic revelry taht results when the six moons join.
"A profound ecological and sociological commentary on human individuality...ambitiously choreographed and executed without amisstep... Tepper deftly conjoins a superb awareness of otherness with penetrating insight into selfhood in this shining, bravuraperformance."( Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) )
"Delightful...at once witty, moving, and exacly right...a marvelously complex book, filled with humanity seen, and felt, at its bestand its worst, and set alongside some fascinating alienness as well. Tepper knows how to stir the wit and wisdom of parable into agenuine pageturner of a narrative, for male and female readers alike." ( Locus)
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On Newholme: Mouche
"It's all right," Mouche's mother said. "Next time we'll have a girl."
Mouche knew of this because his father told him. "She said it was all right. She said next time..."
But there had been no next time. Why the inscrutable Hagions decided such things was unknown. Some persons profited in life, producing daughter after daughter; some lost in life, producing son after son; some hung in the balance as Eline and Darbos did, having one son at the Temple, and then a daughter born dead at the Temple, and then no other child.
It was neither a profit nor a great loss, but still, a loss. Even a small loss sustained over time can bleed a family: so theirs bled. Only a smutch of blood, a mere nick of a vein, a bit more out than in, this year and then the next, and the one after that, a gradual anemia, more weakening than deadly-the heifer calves sold instead of kept, the ewe lambs sold, the repairs to the water mill deferred, then deferred again. Darbos had taken all he had inherited and added to that what he could borrow as his dowry for a wife who would help him establish a family line, to let him wear the honorable cockade, to be known as g'Darbos and be addressed as "Family Man." He had planned to repay the loan with advances against his share of the dowries paid for his own daughters. Instead, he had paid for Eline with the price of the heifer calves, with the ruin of the mill. Her family had profited, and though families lucky enough to have several daughters often gave those daughters a share of the dowry they brought in (a generosity Darbos had rather counted on), Eline's parents had notseen fit to do so. Still, Eline's daughters would have made it all worth while, if there had been daughters.
Their lack made for a life not precisely sad, but not joyous, either. There was no absence of care, certainly. Eline was not a savage. There was no personal blame. Darbos had created the sperm, he was the one responsible, everyone knew that. But then, some receptacles were said to reject the female, so perhaps Eline shared the fault. No matter. Blaming, as the Hags opined, was a futile exercise engaged in only by fools. What one did was bow, bow again, and get on.
So, each New Year at the Temple, while g'Darbos waited outside with the other Family Men, all of them sneaking chaff under their veils and whispering with one another in defiance of propriety, Eline bowed and bowed again. Then she got on, though the getting did not halt the slow leaking away of substance by just so much as it took to feed and clothe one boy, one boy with a boy's appetite and a boy's habit of unceasing growth. As for shoes, well, forget shoes. If he had had sisters, then perhaps Eline would have bought him shoes. In time, she might even have provided the money for him to dower in a wife. If he had had sisters.
"If bought no wife," so the saying went, so forget the wife. More urgent than the need for a wife was the need for daily grain, for a coat against the wind, for fire on the winter's hearth and tight roof against the storm, none of which came free. Eline and Darbos were likely to lose all.
After nine barren years, it was unlikely there would be more children, and the couple had themselves to think of. Who can not fatten on daughters must fatten on labor, so it was said, and the little farm would barely fatten two. It would not stretch to three.
On the day Mouche was twelve, when the festive breakfast was over and the new shirt admired and put on, Papa walked with him into the lower pasture where an old stump made a pleasant sun-gather for conversation, and there Papa told Mouche what the choices were. Mouche might be cut, and if he survived it, sold to some wealthy family as a chatron playmate for their children, a safe servant for the daughters, someone to fetch and carry and neaten up. The fee would be large if he lived, but if he died, there would be no fee at all.
Or, an alternative. Madame Genevois who had a House in Sendoph had seen Mouche in the marketplace, and she'd made an offer for him. While the fee was less than for a chatron, it would be paid in advance, no matter how he turned out.
Mama had followed them down to the field and she stood leaning on the fence, taking no part in the conversation. It was not a woman's place, after all, to enlighten her son to the facts of life. Still, she was near enough to hear him when he cried:
"Trained for a Hunk, Papa? A Hunk?"
"Where did you learn that word?" said Mama, spinning around and glaring at him. "We do not talk filth in this family..."
"Shh, shh," said Darbos, tears in the comers of his eyes. "The word is the right word, Madam. When we are driven to this dirty end, let us not quibble about calling it what it is. "
At which point Mama grew very angry and went swiftly away toward the house. Papa followed her a little way, and Mouche heard him saying, "Oh, I know he's only a boy, Eline, but I've grown fond of him..."
Mouche had seen Hunks, of course-who had not?riding through the marketplace, their faces barely veiled behind gauzy stuff, their clothing all aglitter with gold lace and gems, their hats full of plumes, the swords they fenced with sparkling like rippled water. Even through the veils one could see their hair was curled and flowing upon their shoulders, not bound back as a common man would need it to be, out of the way of the work. Their shirts were open, too, and in the gap their skin glowed and their muscles throbbed. Hunks did not work. They smiled, they dimpled, they complimented, they dueled and rode and wrestled, they talked of wonderful things that ordinary people knew little or nothing of. Poetry. And theater. And wine...
Meet the Author
Sheri S. Tepper is the author of more than thirty novels, including 1993’s A Plague of Angels, which is set in the same world as The Waters Rising. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
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Fantastic...Tepper turns male female politics upside down. Fascinating characters and lifeforms abound. This is science fiction for the intellectually nimble. Wonderfull world building with a quickened plot.
Tepper is an author that always engages in wondrously imaginative world-building and who weaves very complex plots with a multitude of viewpoints together seamlessly. She sometimes gets pigeonholed as an ecofeminist SF author, because ecology and gender roles are frequent topics in her novels, but she never lets her message (which is nothing more radical than that we should think of the consequences of our actions and always treat each other like human beings, rather than men and women treating each other as "other" and "alien") get in the way of telling an engaging story. Six Moon Dance is the most complete novel I've read by her yet. The world is fascinating -- on first glance it is a matriarchy, but the relationship between the sexes is nowhere near as simple as the reader at first assumes; there is an undercurrent of unease from the very first chapter at the mention of "invisibles" and the Questioner; and all this against a backdrop of seismic activity that may or may not mean something. The characters, while never entirely fleshed out (a task nearly impossible given Tepper's propensity for perspective shifts every few pages) are both likable and relateable, and there was never a perspective I did not want to return to. It is also a novel of big ideas, those things that SF is best at: as mentioned, it explores gender roles and human involvement with the environment; but it also weaves in an exploration of personal identity and cultural identity; justice and its enforcement and how that is affected by the experiences of the individuals acting as judges; what it means to be human; and it even does a good job at portraying a pretty convincingly alien alien race. But what is best about the novel, the reason I can't stop smiling about it even while writing this review, is its core sense that life is absurd, and its absurdity, joyous. The climax is absolutely perfect, one of the few I've read where the fate of the world is at stake and yet I was grinning and doubled over with laughter. What is gets absolutely right is that life simply isn't worth living if you can't embrace its compensatory joys.
This book was good but, It wasn't her best. I enjoyed the story line the first time when it was title After Long Silence. This similarity between the two books left me feeling a bit cheated. Most of the book was exceptionaly well written, which is something I take for granted when reading a Tepper book (they are all wonderfully written). The ending disapointed me the most; is this a romance novel? I do recommend the book, but not if you are a first time Tepper reader, read a different title first,(Family Tree, or Grass).