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The Gate to Women's Country: A Novel by…
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The Gate to Women's Country: A Novel (original 1988; edition 1993)

by Sheri S. Tepper (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,905476,208 (4.06)151
"Lively, thought-provoking . . . the plot is ingenious, packing a wallop of a surprise . . . Tepper knows how to write a well-made, on-moving story with strong characters. . . . She takes the mental risks that are the lifeblood of science fiction and all imaginative narrative."--Ursula K. LeGuin, Los Angeles Times Since the flames died three hundred years ago, human civilization has evolved into a dual society: Women's Country, where walled towns enclose what's left of past civilization, nurtured by women and a few nonviolent men; and the adjacent garrisons where warrior men live--the lost brothers, sons, and lovers of those in Women's Country. Two societies. Two competing dreams. Two ways of life, kept apart by walls stronger than stone. And yet there is a gate between them. . . . "Tepper not only keeps us reading . . . she provokes a new look at the old issues."--The Washington Post "Tepper's cast of both ordinary and extraordinary people play out a powerful drama whose significance goes beyond sex to deal with the toughest problem of all, the challenge of surmounting humanity's most dangerous flaws so we can survive--despite ourselves."--Locus… (more)
Member:thanissaro
Title:The Gate to Women's Country: A Novel
Authors:Sheri S. Tepper (Author)
Info:Spectra (1993), Edition: unknown, 336 pages
Collections:read in 2020, e-Book
Rating:****1/2
Tags:None

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The Gate to Women's Country by Sheri S. Tepper (1988)

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» See also 151 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
I love this book. The only glaring fault is that, unlike other feminist separatist authors like Charnas and Russ, Tepper seems to be homophobic, at least in this book. But that said, she comes up with an interesting idea about how a dystopic country organizes society to deal with male aggression.
One thing you can say for the FLDS (fundamentalist Mormon church), it is the basis for some great storytelling. ( )
  Citizenjoyce | Jul 9, 2020 |
Tepper's story takes place in a dystopian future following an unnamed apocalyptic event. The new society functions in such a way that the men and women live mostly separate lives with the woman doing most of the administrative and labor work of the civilization and the men living in "Warrior Barracks." The two get together for recreational purposes twice per year, but otherwise do not socialize. However, some men have chosen not to remain within the ranks of the warriors and they are known as Servitors and perform the rest of the town's labor duties. The men of the barracks suspect the women have some great secret and plot to discover this. The story is told from the point of view of Stavia, with chapters alternating between Stavia as a child and her experiences as a woman. There's a great revelation towards the end that changes the reader's entire paradigm of the book, which is fortunate, because for most of the book, I was alternately confused and horrified by this society that emerged from the wreckage.
A great deal of the book is also concerned with the annual theatrical production of the story of the Trojan War with a focus on Iphegenia. I was only passingly familiar with the tale, though it seems to have been distorted a bit for the purposes of this book. A reader more familiar with that story might find the first part of the book more enjoyable or comprehensible.
I love a good speculative fiction book that also causes deep contemplation of gender roles, societal trappings and the ways in which people strive for a more Utopic future, I just wish the tale had been more compelling prior to the revelation. ( )
1 vote EmScape | Jul 24, 2019 |
This is very well-written, and an enjoyable read, but it's based on a totally faulty premise. It's so second-wave feminist: all the world's evils are caused by men, through something innate in men's biology/psychology. Not enough thought has been given to what actually causes patriarchy. No thought is given at all to any other forms of oppression. Homosexuality has been totally erased - "bred out". The solution presented, which will supposedly stop women's oppression, is eugenics(!).

Also very second-wave feminist - in the post-apocalyptic USA, the major foundational texts are the Odyssey and the Bible. Totally Eurocentric, Western Canon, old ideas. A feminist reading of the Odyssey is the ideological basis of Women's Country, as though that millenia-old text is a realistic universal example of men's behaviour.

No real criticism is given to the way Women's Country is run. Morgot is a total Machiavellian leader, but the book seems to say that any atrocities the Council commits, or lies it tells to its citizens, are necessary in order to achieve a utopia where women are not oppressed by men. ( )
  xiaomarlo | Apr 17, 2019 |
(original review, 1987)

“The Gate to Women's Country”, remains the best written and most provocative of the lot when it comes to Feminist SF. It's one of the few books where I turned the last page and flipped back to the first and read it straight through again when I realized how deceptive the text, itself, was. I love when Septimus Bird tips Tepper's hand by noting that all good magicians keep us riveted on the left hand when the real trick happens in the right. That ends up being an ingenious clue about the ways we, as readers, are about to be hoodwinked. It's the very rare book that surprises me (my wife swears I have a seventh sense for foreshadowing; and I thought I was just a regular guy...) but this one did; once you know the secret it's everywhere. Having read it many times I continue to marvel at the superb architecture of the novel; its form holds up to the complexity of its vision. I always ended with a debate about whether what the women are really doing is justified, and those were among the most ferociously animated and intense moments in my class. It's like a torture test for those of us who are pacifists but who would have to test how far we're willing to go to prevent war. It's brilliant.

A novel that could be imagined to be a kind of sequel to Atwood's “Handmaid’s Tale”, but much better written. Atwood’s seems pedestrian by comparison. In Tepper’s novel, the women don't run away, they take action. It's pretty draconian action, too, with a revelatory moment that comes down on the reader like a hammer. ( )
  antao | Sep 29, 2018 |
I'm so glad that I finally got around to reading this book. I'd been putting it off for a while now, because somehow I'd gotten the impression that this was old, and a sci-fi classic. However, it's not nearly as old as I'd assumed it was going to be (only early 1990's) though it IS without a doubt a classic.

This book is a fierce and heartrending look at an attempt at utopia, and the sacrifices that must be made and lies that must be told in order to have any chance at all at achieving that utopia. It is an engaging book, and generally a joy to read, except for those couple of moments towards the end when it made me cry.

This is a feminist work that takes a long, hard look at differences between men and women, and what a female-led society might look like. It has issues with homosexuality & bisexuality, but those are mostly confined to a single paragraph (where both are written off a "cured") and easily ignored. The impact that this book has had on me easily overshadows that single paragraph, so I still wouldn't hesitate to recommend that everyone read this book. ( )
  VLarkinAnderson | Sep 24, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
"I confess this book defeated me. I didn't finish it and came away with a very low opinion of Tepper's work, which I had not previously read."
"This is, unquestionably, a serious, ambitious novel, about the roles of the sexes ..." "My advice for the future is that someone, either Ms. Tepper or her editor, slog through the dense elephant grass of her prose armed with a blue pencil and, whenever wandering herds of adjectives appear - shoot to kill."
added by RBeffa | editAboriginal Science Fiction, Darrell Schweitzer (Mar 1, 1989)
 
Tepper's finest novel to date is set in a post-holocaust feminist dystopia that offers only two political alternatives: a repressive polygamist sect that is slowly self-destructing through inbreeding and the matriarchal dictatorship called Women's Country. Here, in a desperate effort to prevent another world war, the women have segregated most men into closed military garrisons and have taken on themselves every other function of government, industry, agriculture, science and learning. The resulting manifold responsibilities are seen through the life of Stavia, from a dreaming 10-year-old to maturity as doctor, mother and member of the Marthatown Women's Council. As in Tepper's Awakeners series books, the rigid social systems are tempered by the voices of individual experience and, here, by an imaginative reworking of The Trojan Woman that runs through the text. A rewarding and challenging novel that is to be valued for its provoc ative ideas.
added by cmwilson101 | editPublishers Weekly
 

» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sheri S. Tepperprimary authorall editionscalculated
Di Marino, StefanoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harman, DominicCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jacobus, TimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jääskeläinen, JukkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McLean, WilsonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oklander, AdrianaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Olbinski, RafalCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roberts, AdamIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tate, IawaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Stavia saw herself as in a picture, from the outside, a darkly cloaked figure moving along a cobbled street, the stones sheened with a soft, early spring rain.
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"Lively, thought-provoking . . . the plot is ingenious, packing a wallop of a surprise . . . Tepper knows how to write a well-made, on-moving story with strong characters. . . . She takes the mental risks that are the lifeblood of science fiction and all imaginative narrative."--Ursula K. LeGuin, Los Angeles Times Since the flames died three hundred years ago, human civilization has evolved into a dual society: Women's Country, where walled towns enclose what's left of past civilization, nurtured by women and a few nonviolent men; and the adjacent garrisons where warrior men live--the lost brothers, sons, and lovers of those in Women's Country. Two societies. Two competing dreams. Two ways of life, kept apart by walls stronger than stone. And yet there is a gate between them. . . . "Tepper not only keeps us reading . . . she provokes a new look at the old issues."--The Washington Post "Tepper's cast of both ordinary and extraordinary people play out a powerful drama whose significance goes beyond sex to deal with the toughest problem of all, the challenge of surmounting humanity's most dangerous flaws so we can survive--despite ourselves."--Locus

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from inside cover flap:
Three hundred years ago, the world all but burned to ash in the flames of a nuclear holocaust. Before the embers had cooled, the survivors swore that it would never happen again. Civilization as it once was evolved into a society of two disparate parts. In Women's Country, walled towns enclose waht is left of the best of the past, nurtured by women and capable but non-violent men. Outposts of safety and security in a hostile world, places like Marthatown raise children, feed and clothe the populace, and cultivate the lost biological sciences. In adjacent garrisons are sons, brothers, lovers, lost to a code of violence and false glory once they embrace the warrior life.
This is the world that Stavia and Chernon were born to live in, a world bound by rules too strict for some children to understand. Rules too harsh for a child like Stavia to obey.
When only a girl, Stavia tried to convince Chernon to return to Women's Country. She brought him books that most men had been forbidden to read for as long as anyone could remember. Chernon took the books, but rejected Stavia and her world. Now a young medic, Stavia still hopes to win Chernon by reminding him of the love they shared nearly ten years before. Though Chernon is a stranger to her now, Stavia gives in to the voice that begs her to trust him, allowing him to accompany her on a mission to the southern borderlands.
Their journey is filled with love, hate, lust, and betrayal that divide their worlds. And when sudden violence engulfs them both, not even the secrets of Women's Country can prevent the death of Stavia's innocence. Stavia is left with no choice but to take on the responsibility for her transgressions if she is to prevent a far greater tragedy - one which could destroy humanity completely.

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