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The Dubious Hills by Pamela Dean
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The Dubious Hills (original 1994; edition 1994)

by Pamela Dean

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294757,369 (3.62)8
Member:jjmcgaffey
Title:The Dubious Hills
Authors:Pamela Dean
Info:Pamela Dean
Collections:ebooks, Working on
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Tags:Fic, SF, !Po, __make_cover, _import190509

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The Dubious Hills by Pamela Dean (1994)

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The bookshelves of young fantasy are overcrowded, with increasingly fierce competition, but 'The Secret Country' deserves a far better place than it currently has. I remember when I last reread the trilogy, the name "The Dubious Hills" cracked me up. It was such a deliberate naming and went along with Dean's mythology so well. Little did I know she had written a companion book to the series about the place and that the two of them even have a sequel being crowd-funded and hopefully will be published soon.

'The Dubious Hills' takes some getting used to. Early on in the book Dean subjects the reader to a barrage of an inner-monologue that made little sense to me until later. The Dubious Hills area is under a centuries-old spell that was intended to prevent war. The results of the spell is to remove doubt and divide knowledge amongst the inhabitants. There is only one person who knows how to fix people or objects, one person who can teach, one person to identify plants, and so on. Nothing is certain to an individual unless it is their own Knowledge and everything else must be attributed to the individual who, after all, knows. There is magic, but unless you are the person whose Knowledge is magic your ability is lost sometime before you reach puberty and attain your Knowledge.

Arry is Physici, the individual who knows pain. At 14 she has been left in charge of her two younger siblings after the disappearance of her parents. Life is simple, requiring a great deal of bartering and trips to consult neighbors about everything. Tea is consumed, cats are abundant and if the situation isn't perfect it is at least peaceful. Complications arrive in the form of wolves who don't act the way they are Known to act. With some debate it falls on Arry to figure out the threat to their community and she comes to understand new forms of hurt along the way.

"That's all very good, Myles, but what the hell did you think of the book?"

I liked it. It was different and a well thought out 'if, then' kind of book. It makes me think of Diana Wynne Jones on Ritalin. English pastoral fantasy without the need for messy chaos. Arry and the other villagers walk back and forth across the hills, ask questions, give, lend and borrow necessities from one another and plant the crops, and lots of other details that could be seen as meaningless - but they're not! There's purpose to everything here, though, and The Dubious Hills circles around to an inevitable conclusion.

The Secret 'Trilogy'

Next: 'Going North' --- Coming soon?!

Previous: 'The Whim of the Dragon' ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
I shelved this under fantasy rather than science fantasy or sci-fi because the premise...doesn't make sense. Which, okay, I can totally roll with that, it's not like my adored Arthurian legends have much resemblance to reality.

But this doesn't hold together. I feel like I was handed a bowl, and when I tried to take the dough out of the bowl to knead and bake, it turned out to be batter. This doesn't hold together, I don't understand how this world functions, I don't understand the laws of magic here, I don't understand what Arry is trying to do half the time, and I am therefore not happy.

copperbadge says that the line in Doctor Who 5.01, "Believe me for twenty minutes," is Steven Moffat as the writer talking — just believe me for twenty minutes. Just suspend your disbelief for twenty minutes and let me tell you this story. But the thing is, if I do you that favor, if I agree to believe for those twenty minutes, because I do not owe you the author my suspension of disbelief, you have to give me something in return, and I don't think Dean did. Her writing seems purposefully opaque here, intentionally dense. I would have been grateful for an info dump or two, because this makes no fucking sense. ( )
1 vote cricketbats | Apr 18, 2013 |
A very strange book, and I'm not sure I liked it. It's a terribly ambitious concept - a society where people only know one thing, and everything else they either have experience of or are told by someone else - but I'm not sure it came off very well. It might have been the base concept, or possibly the main characters (all children, which is disorienting) or maybe something about the strangely distant writing. Best use of werewolves I've seen in a while, though. ( )
  jen.e.moore | Mar 30, 2013 |
What a wonderful, deep, thoughtful book. Very odd fantasy. What a strange line, between knowing and memory and doubt... I don't think I quite grasped it on my first reading, not until after. This was my third reading.I think most writers telling a tale of this sort would have made escape from the spell the goal, and thus Halver hero, not villian. I'm still not sure. But the society wasn't a bad one, the people not unhappy, mostly, even if they couldn't know it. I suppose the key is the end, with Oonan's "It's not the certain knowledge, the right knowledge, that did us harm, if harm was being done to us. It was refusing to step outside it." And so they didn't know that a mother leaving might cause pain in her children. Until she read about all the cruel mothers.I wonder about the wizards. It says they set up the society to eliminate war, murder, and yet no hint as to why that particular setup would achieve that goal. Perhaps just that no one had the knowledge of killing? Or perhaps the loss of certainty... If they thought war was rooted in certainties, leading to fanaticisms. ( )
2 vote krisiti | Jul 1, 2009 |
Starting to read this it felt very like total immersion science fiction, as I tried to work out what was happening (and discarded various theories as they failed to fit). This book is hard work in the best of ways, it mirrored various aspects of mundane life in a magical world in ways I haven't seen before, and the problems its protagonist faced were so real as to seem insoluble and I still don't know what the right answers were.
Certainly not standard quest fantasy, this has wonderful world building in simple community life. And I loved the profanity. ( )
2 vote Aquila | Mar 30, 2008 |
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Arry opened the door to call the cats.
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Receiving an enormous responsibility as Physici for her people, the only individual in the Dubious Hills capable of experiencing and understanding pain, fourteen-year-old Arry seeks to protect her world from a wolf invasion.
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The setting is a land where peace is maintained by limiting knowledge, a sort of paradise before The Fall. But as happened in paradise, someone comes along to ruin it. In this case it is not a serpent but wolves. By the author of Tam Lin.

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