In this collaboration with Ilsa J. Bick, Buckell touches on very traditional themes in Feminist Science Fiction, but in an interesting way. We are introduced to a future that is made up entirely of women, with men mysteriously going extinct at some point in history.
Instead of a utopia where women live together in sisterhood, there are desperately fighting factions. In a world where children are reproduced through cloning and genetic manipulation, one faction, the Talorans, wish to look for male genetic material in order to bring the other half of our species back. The other faction, the Imperialists, wish to suppress this material and bring all women under their thumbs. The title refers to the Taloran’s word for this material, and for the person that the material will help them create.
On a secret mission to a distant planet thought to contain the fabled genetic material, two women from the Taloran faction crash land and must escape from the Imperial Inquisitor coming to kill them. Dinah, the one that holds the key to the revitalization of the race, is sent off, while the other stays to fight. But as Dinah tries to escape, she slowly begins to change, and also begins to realize that her sisters do not always have her best interests at heart.
This story is fascinating to read. There are so many themes packed into it. Why are the women fighting so hard to bring Man back into the picture? Is the integrity and dignity of the individual more important than the mission? Can you trust someone who has been raised as your enemy? Does the freedom to make a choice, instead of the forcing of that choice, change the outcome? Are you forever bound by what is contained within your genes?
I truly liked this story, and I plan to pick up some of Ilsa J. Bick’s other work to see how it compares. I think this collaboration brought up some very interesting questions from the two authors, and I hope they’ll do something again someday.