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Moonstar Odyssey by David Gerrold

Moonstar Odyssey (1977)

by David Gerrold

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David Gerrold is best known for what was his very first professional sale--the script for the Star Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles, but he's written several science fiction novels quite a few of which have been nominated for or won Hugo or Nebula Awards. This short novel (only 159 paperback pages) is no exception, having been nominated for a Nebula Award in 1977.

Despite that recognition it's out of print, and it hasn't garnered good ratings (or any reviews) on Amazon, Goodreads or Librarything. I think part of that is that it has some unsettling material, while not quite being groundbreaking. The premise and themes remind me quite a bit of Ursula LeGuin's 1969 novel, The Left Hand of Darkness, which dealt with a race of hermaphrodites who are only gendered for a few days in a cycle and can be either male or female--but are always referred to as "she." In Moonstar Odyssey children are born ungendered, and when they begin adolescence can choose to be either male or female for the rest of their lives. If this isn't unsettling enough, it deals with child sexuality, since individuals approaching adolescence experiment trying on the different roles. The story centers on Jobe, someone in the throes of "Choice" while her (and all genders are always referred to with the female pronoun) planet goes awry. For quite a while in the book a reader is unsure if Jobe's people are human or mutants or genetically engineered--but we know from the first their planet is terraformed and ecologically fragile. Despite the hints of adventure in the title though, this is a very interior story, told with a mix of third and first person and including some of the planet's legends, history, and geology and ecology. It feels less of a story than LeGuin's novel and as a result might feel a bit like an uninspired copy. At least that's why I think it hasn't endured, although I really did enjoy it. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | Apr 22, 2013 |
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