Friday, November 30, 2007

Book Review: The Fresco, by Sheri S. Tepper

The Fresco by Sheri Tepper is a scifi political commentary on modern social and political problems facing us today. With the introduction of an benevolent alien influence, she comes up with inventive and often hilarious ideas on how to combat the treatment of women in fundamentalist Islamic regions, politicos who speak the virtues of pro-life while living very differently, and those who promote "freedom" when they are really looking for the personal freedom to do harm to other people. Even the "lazy" and disaffected are treated with kind regard, given the option to live fulfilling lives if they choose, or if they choose otherwise, to at least not become starving and homeless, and therefore potentially dangerous to society.

The story is beautifully written, with well-designed alien races, and there is none of the scientific jargon that can be cumbersome in many science fiction novels--and which often create strife among hardcore geeks who argue about plausibility. Even so, there is a passing but gentle mention of string physics There are also a couple of amusing but subtle references to Star Wars (page 267*) and Star Trek (page 396*) that elicited a giggle from me.

The characters are quite enjoyable, with the protagonist being impossible to dislike. Their relationships are well-defined, but don't expect any sex in this book at all. While many novels have everybody getting into each others' pants at the first meaningful glance, I feel that the author has been much more realistic about sex in general, especially within the characters' personalities.

One of the issues I had with this book was the constant use of acronyms for certain things. I understand the use of FBI, CIA, and other such acronyms, but there was a continual use of FL for First Lady, SOS for Secretary of State, and SA for spiritual advisor. While I realize that this was done so that the author did not have to apply names to these individuals, thus making the story more timeless, it was kind of irritating and distracting.

Another issue is that I think many people will find the book preachy, especially if their values are different from the author's. I can only recommend that this author's work should not be read if you are opposed to parables. While no book is completely unbiased, this one is considerably unapologetic and bold about promoting compassion and condemning political red tape.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Fresco. It is a good story, with interesting characters and ideas, and it is written very clearly and beautifully. There is a lot of humor as well, especially the way pro-life politicians are dealt with. Additionally, because I am viewing this through my filter of experience, it was noteworthy that there was a lack of fat hatred present in the story.

Some quotes I enjoyed:
This was a headline from a newspaper: "Texas Woman Bears Nine Children: Fertility Drugs Blamed For Littering"

"...the three predatory races constitute a voting bloc in the Confederation that continues to press for more freedom of action on the part of individual members. Don't you find that predators are those who most often assert absolute rights to personal freedom?"

"Talk about the flag and he gets all choked up. Funny, so many of these guys think the country stands for the flag instead of the other way round. So long as Old Glory's whipping in the breeze, it's okay to deal guns to kids and cheat on your taxes."

"While we do ny deny deity, we do not presume to understand it, plea bargain with it, or tell others what shape it takes. It does make life easier."

* These page numbers refer to the hardcover edition; they may be different from other editions.


JeanC said...

I'll have to keep an eye out for the book. I love Sheri's stories and it has been a while since I've read them.

Hekateris said...

I have to admit that the last Tepper book I read I ended up hurling against the wall. Two thirds of the way in and it turned into Christian allegory in the space of a paragraph. Alas, I can't remember which book it was, now.

Ah well, at least I can always reread Six Moon Dance.