Friday, March 19, 2010

Biting the Sun

Biting the Sun by Tanith Lee was suggested to me by my cousin's husband. He raved about it and I had a bit of trouble tracking it down. I special ordered it through work and it took forever to get in. From the first line, I knew this would be interesting:

"My friend Hergal had killed himself again..."

This is a futuristic society, Four BEE, where pleasure is everything. The world is run with the help of a lot of robots who are there to make sure the humans are as happy as can be. There is a lot of slang used in the book, which has a helpful glossary at the beginning. Young people, or Jang, are encouraged to steal and get married as many times as they wish. They can change their body after a certain period of time to whatever they wish - guy, girl, and look however they want. And if they don't want to wait for the prescribed time period, they can always kill themselves and get a new body that way.

Our main character (who remains unnamed) steals, takes drugs, kills herself, returns to life in a new body she has designed to be incredibly beautiful, eats exotic food, has sex with pretty much everyone she knows and yet is unfulfilled. She's mostly female, but does spend a few stints as a guy.

"I can hardley remeber the laughing and the running now and the playing an dthe dancing but I remember the happiness, the happiness like a wound, that bleeds the life spark."

The narrator (who I called Ooma - or darling) tries her best to make herself happy. She tries to be an adult and get a job, tries to have a child, but remains hopelessly unhappy. Ooma has a great connection with a pet she steals; he is wild and mean but she cannot help but cart him everywhere she goes. She eventually takes an expedition out to Four BAA and then to the wilds of the desert, which turn out to be too domestic for her. Ooma continues to push boundaries until the government finally cannot take anymore.

"Do not bite the sun, traveller, you will burn your mouth."

This book was fascinating. The characters kept changing in appearance over and over and even the other characters had a hard time telling who people were at times. There was humor and heartache. Two characters have a hard time because one loves the other for her essence and the other remains transfixed on outward appearances.

I was so surprised that this book isn't talked about more. As far as dystopias go, this was a really good book. The slang was a lot easier to get around than A Clockwork Orange, so I didn't have much of a problem with that.

Note: this book was originally published as two works, Don't Bite the Sun and Drinking Sapphire Wine, but has since been combined in this volume.

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