BooksOfTheMoon

The Adventures of Alyx

By Joanna Russ

Rating: 3 stars

This is a slightly odd book. It’s composed of four loosely linked short stories and a novella (Picnic on Paradise) mostly with the same protagonist (the titular Alyx, although the last story, The Second Inquisition does away even with this). The first two stories are entirely set in the past with no SFnal element to them, and reminded me of some of the Conan stories that I’ve read. The third introduces a ‘sorcerer’ while the novella relocates Alyx to the far future as she’s accidentally lifted from her own timeline and she’s recruited to help a group of trapped civilians cross a planet to safety in the midst of a war. This is the contribution that gives Alyx the most depth as she has to shepherd her group and inevitably gets involved with their lives. The final story is set in 1925 and only obliquely references the rest.

The slim volume is dense in multiple senses of the word. The print is small and closely packed but the imagery and metaphor are also sometimes dense, requiring close reading to process and unpack. Not exactly the light lunchtime reading that I was expecting, but mostly worth it.

Russ is, of course, known for her feminist work and this woman who starts as a cipher, a female Conan, develops into something much more complex, having an inner life of her own. She is always an actor, always driving the story, never being a passive character to whom events happen, which is something that I always enjoy in a protagonist.

So an odd set of stories, but enjoyable both in themselves, and for their place in the greater history of the genre.

Book details

ISBN: 9780704339729
Publisher: The Women's Press
Year of publication: 1968

Picnic on Paradise

By Joanna Russ

Rating: 3 stars

Alyx is a woman removed from her time and she is currently assigned to help a group of eight tourists get to safety as war breaks on a beautiful tourist planet.

This is a short novel and an odd one. Alyx is a fascinating character, struggling to get to grips with the time she’s thrown into and the social mores of the strange group she is assigned to protect and who she slowly grows to care for. I shot through the whole thing in an afternoon, but I suspect it would benefit from a slower re-read to better appreciate both the writing and the concepts. Maybe, if I ever get through my to-read pile (fat chance), I’ll go back to it.

Book details

Publisher: Ace Books (NYC)
Year of publication: 1968

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