The only human child living in a work colony on the Martian satellite Phobos, little Margaret Bain has invented six imaginary companions to keep boredom and loneliness at bay. Each an extension of her personality, they are lost to her when she is forced to return to Earth. But they are not gone.
The time will come when Margaret, fully grown and wed, must leave this dying world as well—this Earth so denuded by thoughtlessness and chemistry that its only viable export is slaves. For now Margarets are scattered throughout the galaxy. And their creator must bring her selves home . . . or watch the human race perish.
This was my first Sheri S. Tepper book!1 I do know enough about the history of scifi to know that Tepper is one of its major authors, and so I knew I’d pick up one of her books eventually.
I choose The Margarets mainly because of its cover, which is cool in an early-2000s sort of way. I was also into the story, which is complicated and multi-layered.
There are seven Margarets, each splitting off from the primary Margaret during an important event in her life. Where one Margaret might have turned left, for example, the other split off and turned right instead. And so each Margaret is the same person, but one informed by different life experiences and choices.
It’s a great plot idea, and it ends up working out really well. It took me a little while to get used to switching back and forth between the different Margarets, but once I did I practically zoomed through the book. And, of course, eventually they all end up together again and then things get REALLY interesting.
This is a chunkster of a book, and yet I devoured it like it was made of chocolate. I love alternate timeline stories, and having seven of them with the same protagonist is like having that chocolate wrapped in a layer of edible gold. Pure deliciousness!
There are aliens, and multi-planet adventures, and family and friendship and finding yourself! I liked how Tepper/the book discussed environmentalism and the negative effects of not giving a crap about conservation, over-population, and destroying your planet. It was scary, and probably a little too in-your-face, but I still really liked it. I also appreciated how humans weren’t the only crappy society, nor were they super-special. There were worse aliens than us (and better ones, too).
That said, I do have some complaints! for example, the worse aliens were REALLY worse. They had no redeeming qualities whatsoever; they were bad to the bone from birth to death. I always find one dimensional villains disappointing, especially in books that’re otherwise great.
Another disappointing thing was that there were no non-straight people2 and everyone was either white or a cat. More diversity in scifi, please! I’m tired of just having straight white people in my space adventures all the time.
Also, on the subject’s of Earth’s overpopulation: have none of these people heard of birth control? It’s like nobody’s heard of a) condoms, b) vasectomies or c) birth control pills/patch. Everybody’s just having babies willy-nilly. The easiest way to stop people having children is not to force their “extra” kids into slavery; it’s to give all men vasectomies and then only reverse it when they’ve got enough credits or something. I’ve read plenty of other scifi books where couples need government permission to have kids because their planet is so crowded; why is the solution in The Margarets slavery and mass murder, except as a shock tactic?
So I did have issues with a large chunk of the world of The Margarets. But despite my problems I still very much enjoyed it,3 and I definitely want to read another Tepper book this year. Which should I read next? Any suggestions?
Read: December 21-23, 2014
- I was supposed to have read The Gate to Women’s Country for a college class on dystopias and uptopias. I never did, probably because it was the end of the semester and I was tired of all the depressing stuff. ↩
- one Margaret, the boy one, WAS in love with another boy character. But he never said anything, not for twenty years, and apparently homosexuality was even more taboo in the future than it is now. ↩
- which just goes to show that you can still enjoy problematic things! Ha. ↩