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Mission Child by Maureen F. McHugh
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Mission Child (1998)

by Maureen F. McHugh

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2971037,787 (3.75)8
  1. 00
    The Ragged World by Judith Moffett (aulsmith)
  2. 00
    Mara and Dann: An Adventure by Doris Lessing (jollyhope)
  3. 00
    Powers by Ursula K. Le Guin (Aquila)
    Aquila: I kept thinking of the protagonist's journey in Powers as I read Mission Child, apart from being about power and loss they are really very different, though MC is reminiscent of many of Le Guins Hainish books as well.
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» See also 8 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Stayed up way later than I should have finishing this!

It's not so much "what happened" - actually, the book is fairly low on "plot" - rather, it follows the (rather traumatic and itinerant) life of a woman from a primitive society on a colony planet, from the brink of womanhood to middle age, along the way dealing with issues of gender and sexuality, "appropriate technology," and finding a place to call home.
But the writing is just so good that it feels like a thriller!

I highly recommend it. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
I had completely forgotten that the short-story collection "Mothers and Other Monsters," which I'd read this summer, was by the same author. So it was a surprise to begin reading this and think..."Hey, this seems awfully familiar." Apparently, this book had its start in one of the short stories--though I forget the title--with only a few slight differences that I could see. It was nice, to see where this character I'd met, briefly, months ago, would go and what she would become. Though I can see, I guess, what some reviewers mean when they said it had "no plot," or something to that effect, I wasn't bothered by it. Sure, the character kind of just wandered around, with no clearly defined "goal" or anything, but honestly it wasn't like the story was pointless, just that she was searching not for a specific thing or person or place, just something less tangible. If the theme here is searching for something, then it makes sense that there would be a certain amount of confused wandering about, uncertainty, etc. Which I think is a perfectly good basis for a story. And the ending, though it wasn't exactly what or at a point that I would have thought it would be, still worked well. I wasn't like, "What...? Where'd the rest of the book go?" which has happened before and is terribly frustrating, as I'm sure anyone who reads much, or at all really, can attest to. So a book with interesting circumstances and characters, which moves along and has some meaning to it, and to wrap it all up has a satisfying ending...I enjoyed it. And though I know some reviewers had a problem with the "simple" or "awkward" prose, and I'll agree that it wasn't the greatest I'd ever seen, it told the story effectively, and also seemed to give a sense of voice, even the sense that the character telling the story came from a different place and spoke a different language--which was the case, after all.

So, not exactly epic, and not heavy sci-fi, but good in any case. ( )
  -sunny- | Jul 15, 2014 |
I had completely forgotten that the short-story collection "Mothers and Other Monsters," which I'd read this summer, was by the same author. So it was a surprise to begin reading this and think..."Hey, this seems awfully familiar." Apparently, this book had its start in one of the short stories--though I forget the title--with only a few slight differences that I could see. It was nice, to see where this character I'd met, briefly, months ago, would go and what she would become. Though I can see, I guess, what some reviewers mean when they said it had "no plot," or something to that effect, I wasn't bothered by it. Sure, the character kind of just wandered around, with no clearly defined "goal" or anything, but honestly it wasn't like the story was pointless, just that she was searching not for a specific thing or person or place, just something less tangible. If the theme here is searching for something, then it makes sense that there would be a certain amount of confused wandering about, uncertainty, etc. Which I think is a perfectly good basis for a story. And the ending, though it wasn't exactly what or at a point that I would have thought it would be, still worked well. I wasn't like, "What...? Where'd the rest of the book go?" which has happened before and is terribly frustrating, as I'm sure anyone who reads much, or at all really, can attest to. So a book with interesting circumstances and characters, which moves along and has some meaning to it, and to wrap it all up has a satisfying ending...I enjoyed it. And though I know some reviewers had a problem with the "simple" or "awkward" prose, and I'll agree that it wasn't the greatest I'd ever seen, it told the story effectively, and also seemed to give a sense of voice, even the sense that the character telling the story came from a different place and spoke a different language--which was the case, after all.

So, not exactly epic, and not heavy sci-fi, but good in any case. ( )
  -sunny- | Jul 15, 2014 |
Tiptree shortlist 1998 ( )
  SChant | May 9, 2013 |
An epic masterpiece!

Mothers & Other Monsters excepted, I’ve read the entirety of Maureen McHugh’s oeuvre. (“Devoured” is more like it; after stumbling upon her latest release, After the Apocalypse, I requested every McHugh title my local library owned - including any scifi anthologies containing her short stories - and consumed them all within the space of just a few months. She’s the greatest thing since Margaret Atwood, yo!) Mission Child is far and away my favorite of the bunch.

Hundreds – perhaps thousands – of years into the future, the citizens of Earth have pushed their settlements forever outward, colonizing other planets throughout the universe. Young Janna lives a sparse existence on the north pole of one of these “offworld” planets. In Hamra Mission, she and her clan learn about “appropriate technologies” from earth-born missionaries. When her village is attacked and destroyed by a hostile band of raiders, Janna must struggle to find a new home – first with her husband’s clan, later in a refugee camp for indigent peoples, and finally in the “civilized” world. Throughout her journey, Janna struggles with her self-identity and gender expression.

Born a female, Janna begins dressing and “passing” as a man as a teenager in the refugee camp; she makes the astute observation that women traveling alone are at great risk of gender-based violence. Eventually, she begins to identify as both a man and a woman. When offered (by her employer, which provides gender counseling to its employees!) an implant that will impart some male characteristics, enabling her try out another gender without undergoing surgery, Janna jumps at the chance. Throughout the story, she resists others’ attempts to label her; neither woman nor man, Janna is just that: Janna. (Grandmama Lili’s name for Janna is my favorite: “son-in-law.”) Novels featuring transgender and/or genderqueer protagonists are few and far between, making MISSION CHILD the rarest of gems. (FYI: The titular character of McHugh’s debut novel, China Mountain Zhang, is a gay man. Pass ‘em along to those in search of good LGBTQ fiction.)

Mission Child is a masterpiece with true epic potential. Though I don't know of any plans for sequels, prequels, or the like, I sincerely hope that McHugh revisits Janna’s world – or, better yet, introduces us to the inhabitants of another of Earth’s sister planets. Mission Child sets the stage for what could easily be an epic series. McHugh’s knack for creating fully realized future worlds is on full display here, and Janna and her kin will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page on her story.

Major trigger warnings for violence – especially sexual and gender-based violence, though rape is thankfully implied rather than described – sickness, death, child loss, poverty, and speciesism.

http://www.easyvegan.info/2012/04/27/book-review-mission-child-maureen-f-mchugh-... ( )
1 vote smiteme | Apr 4, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Mission Child is an example of the category of serious thoughtful SF. It’s beautifully written, like everything of McHugh’s, and it has chewy ideas rather than shiny ones.
added by Shortride | editTor.com, Walton (Aug 21, 2009)
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maureen F. McHughprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Evans, MichaelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Salwowski, MarkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0380791226, Mass Market Paperback)

Mission Child is an expansion of Maureen McHugh's "The Cost to Be Wise," a fascinating novella from the original anthology Starlight 1.

Janna's world was colonized long ago by Earth and then left on its own for centuries. When "offworlders" return, their superior technology upsets the balance of a developing civilization. Mission Child follows the journeys of Janna after she and her young partner escape marauders who attack their hometown. The girl, fast becoming mature beyond her years, sets off across the planet on an odyssey of adventure, poverty, hard work, war, famine, and rebirth. Janna uses her meager skills to eke out a living in a changing world; she gains and loses a husband, a child, friends, jobs, and more.

McHugh weaves together anthropology, sociology, psychology, and gender relations in this wondrous journey. Janna assumes the guise of a boy for protection, but eventually becomes "Jan" to herself as well as others. Reminiscent of Ursula K. Le Guin's insightful works set in the Hainish universe, Mission Child will doubtless be nominated for a Tiptree Award for its exploration of Janna's gender identity. --Bonnie Bouman

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:50 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Young Janna has lived her fourteen years on the icy northern plains of a world that has forgotten its history. Now the arrival of Earthers -- descendants of the humans who first settled the planet many centuries before -- has violently upset the fragile balance of a developing civilization. The offworlders' advanced technologies and cruel indifference to local life have brought despair and destruction to Janna's home, robbing her of family, husband, child, and self. Haunted by a dead past -- mysteriously altered by the gift of three alien artifacts -- Janna must now redefine herself on a devastated planet she no longer recognizes, as she embarks upon a remarkable, transcendent journey into an uncertain future; moving steadily through this strange new world toward a startling realization about her role in the great cosmic order.… (more)

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