May 15, 2011

Northshore by Sheri S. Tepper

Title:  Northshore
Author:  Sherri S. Tepper
Format:  PB
Pages:  245
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Tor, 1988
ISBN-13:  978-0812556179
Series:  Awakeners, Book 1

Favorite Quote:  And Northshore's River edge, where lean forms of stalking Laughers, tight-helmed in black, announce their approach with cries of scornful laughter, ha-ha, ha-ha, making the heretics run for cover.

Synopsis (Amazon):  Come to the world of the River.

Come to a world distant in time and space, a world where the pace of life is counted by tides of the great River, but where, as in the river itself, there are swift dark currents flowing under a placid surface.

Meet Pamra Don--a young woman scarred by her mother's death, lured to a priest-hood where the truth must be hidden from the faithful. And meet Thrasne, a young boatman who trades from town to town, free from the iron control of the towers of the Awakeners, and the priests of the world of the River--free, that is, as long as he never speaks his mind. These two, by design and accident both, are about to discover many truths. And on the Northshore of the River, the truth can kill you.

Review:  I love good descriptions and strange locales.  This is another planet, with wild, strange creatures and dangerous lifeforms.  I should love this book.  But, instead, I am left dazed and confused.

At its core, this novel is about the religion of the planet and how it is based upon lies.  After death, the people are brought back to life using Tears, a fungus, to feed the Thraish who were the original inhabitants of this planet.  This was begun as a way to ensure the survival of both the human and Thraish species.  In exchange for harvesting their own kind, the leaders of the so-called religion are given Thraish blood to extend their lives and make them very nearly immortal.  All of this evil is obscured using deception, ceremonies, and festivals.  There are even darker, more awful secrets, known only to the topmost leaders of both species.  If it sounds dark and terrible, that's because it really is.     

I sense a bit of male-bashing going on, along with various axes to grind against political and religious leaders and religion in particular.  It isn't offensively obvious, but there nonetheless.

The characters are believable.  A group of people discovering that their entire belief system is a sham, not to mention cruel in the extreme, seems like a sound story-line.  And, it is, especially since some of the human religious leaders seem to be involved in trying to bring down the religion they serve.  However, it should not take me 2 days to read 250 pages, but each sentence must be read and re-read and often I found myself returning to earlier sections to try to make sense of what was happening.  The problem is that there is too much going on; too many castes, classes, species, cities, and etc, to the point where the story is almost lost.

Since I'm curious to know whether good will prevail, I am going to make an effort to read the final book in this duology.  Maybe now that I've gotten through the initial information-overload, the second book will be better.

Rating:  4 / 10

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