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Shadow Man by Melissa Scott

Shadow Man

by Melissa Scott

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219980,560 (3.79)1 / 21



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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
An extremely interesting novel by Scott, probably my favorite of all her work I've read so far. It seems to have been inspired by Anne Fausto-Sterling's 1993 essay, "The Five Sexes: Why Male and Female Are Not Enough" (http://frank.mtsu.edu/~phollowa/5sexes.html). Humanity has achieved FTL travel, and colonized widely. However, the drug that allows people to survive interplanetary travel has also had the side effect of increasing mutations, causing around 25% of children to be born intersex. Throughout most of the colonized worlds, this fact has been gradually absorbed by society, and five sexes are considered standard, and the corollary gender roles and social expectations to go with each gender have grown up around them as well. However, on one world, long out of touch with its neighbors, society clings to a two-gendered model - everyone, regardless of their physical attributes, must be seen as either male or female. When contact is made again, and trade and business relations grow, the people from other worlds and other societies are increasingly seen as a threat. The book concentrates on one person in particular - Warreven, a 'herm' who has been living as a man, but who would like the freedom to be seen as an individual, without having to fit into a gender role that does not precisely suit. It's a socially complex, idea-filled book, with strong characters. The furor that some of these characters work themselves up into over socially constructed gender roles - up to and including extreme violence - seems absurd - and sometimes unbelievable - until one realizes that our own society is just as bad if not worse, over some of the very same exact issues. Highly recommended. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
I thoroughly enjoyed this tale exploring gender, sexuality and prejudice.

In an unspecified future, drugs for coping with FTL travel have caused mutations resulting in 5 stable, recognized genders. But on planetary backwater Hara, society recognizes only two and frowns on the odd-bodied (those with sexual attributes not belonging to their 'official' or claimed gender) and the wry-abed (typically those who don't mind taking advantage of all their sexual attributes for pleasure and/or prostitution).

Recent commerce with other human worlds who have long since come to terms with gender evolution has thrown the problem into sharp relief. Scott focuses on the political and commercial wrangling as the odd-bodied struggle to gain a voice on Hara and demand recognition as gendered humans in their own right.

This is great stuff, tightly focused on the interpersonal to explain the gender situation, the surrounding issues, and the unpleasant implications and prejudices as expressed at an individual level. It's not hard to spot the parallels, but there's no preaching - just an examination of what prejudice means for those it affects. The scale is kept firmly in hand, with Scott's usual excellent incidental world building.

Note on edition: my kindle edition (paragons of queer sf release) didn't render the characters for the additional genders properly on either my aging kindle touch or the kindle app on my phone. Worth seeking a print copy or a properly encoded ebook. ( )
  imyril | Apr 19, 2015 |
One of my favorite fiction books with genderqueer characters, by an author who clearly understands that gender is a social construct. Scott's strength as a writer is the creation of detailed future societies. Here she contrasts two societies, one trying desperately to hang-on to current views of masculinity and femininity in the face of changes to Human anatomy and the other dealing with the changes in a way that creates pitfalls of its own. I'd love to see a sequel where we spend more time in the second culture. ( )
  aulsmith | Apr 14, 2015 |
  iansales | Aug 23, 2012 |
The premise: ganked from BN.com: In the far future, human culture has developed five distinctive genders due to the effects of a drug easing sickness from faster-than-light travel. But on the planet Hara, where society is increasingly instability, caught between hard-liner traditions and the realities of life, only male and female genders are legal, and the "odd-bodied" population are forced to pass as one or the other. Warreven Stiller, a lawyer and an intersexed person, is an advocate for those who have violated Haran taboos. When Hara regains contact with the Concord worlds, Warreven finds a larger role in breaking the long-standing role society has forced on "him," but the search for personal identity becomes a battleground of political intrigue and cultural clash.

Winner of a Lambda Literary Award for Gay/Lesbian Science Fiction, Shadow Man remains one of the more important modern, speculative novels ever published in the field of gender- and sexual identity.

Five human sexual identities are spread throughout the galaxy, and humanity has adjusted to this new culture. Except on Hara--there everyone must choose to be a man or a woman and that decision is final. Warreven, a Haran man, could have married the son of the ruler of the planet--if he had chosen to be a woman. The result of the conflict is one of the most bizarre identity crises in science fiction.

My Rating: Worth Reading, with Reservations

For all of my confusion, I did enjoy this book. The premise was too interesting to ignore, and while I often felt at a loss for what was happening and why, seeing these two viewpoints pitted against each other made for some very tense reading later in the book. I mean, seriously: five sexes, but our main character, Warreven, lives on a world where the five sexes are ignored and herms, mems, and fems have to choose to be male or female, a decision that can be irrevocable, if it goes to surgery. While the set-up is rather analogous to today and how our current society handles (or doesn't handle) transgendered and intersexual peoples, let alone sexual orientation. It's a heavy book in terms of subject matter, and really requires a careful, thoughtful reading. I suspect it's something that gets better and better the more often it's read, and I know I'll at least understand more should I ever pick it up again. Fans of soft SF, social SF, or feminist SF should definitely give this a shot, but definitely be aware this isn't easy-breezy reading, though the author does everything she can to help the reader along.

Spoilers, yay or nay?: Yes, but it's kind of book where spoilers don't make THAT big of difference, so you should be fine. However, if you're spoiler-phobic, do not click the link the below. The full review is in my blog, and as always, comments and discussion are welcome.

REVIEW: Melissa Scott's SHADOW MAN

Happy Reading! ( )
  devilwrites | Jan 18, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312858000, Hardcover)

In the future, humanity has developed five distinct sexes due to the effects of a drug that allows faster-than-light travel. The Concorde worlds have officially recognized all five sexes, but on the isolated planet Hara those in between male and female are considered mutations who must choose to live as one of the two traditional sexes. When Hara regains contact with the Concorde worlds, it's an opportunity for Warreven--a "herm"--to break the long-standing role society has forced on him. But it will also put him in the center of a political battle that will span the stars. Shadow Man won the 1996 Lambda Award.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:53 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The struggle for sexual liberation in space where there are five genders: men, women, herms, fems and mems. It's a side-effect of medicine people take to control space sickness. But one conservative planet only recognizes the first two and a revolt begins.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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