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

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