He, She and It by Marge Piercy
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Man, I was all set to really, really love this book. Cyberpunk, dystopia, feminist sci-fi…what’s not to love?
Bookshelves: cyberpunk, dnf, my-dystopia-utopia, mysticism, sci-fi, feminism, futuristic, abandoned
Really, I should have known better, after seeing comparisons to The Handmaid’s Tale, which I first read as my book club’s pick when my son was a newborn. What little sleep the mother of a newborn does get, I sacrificed on the altar of The Handmaid’s Tale, and it remains one of my all-time favorite reads, one I’ve returned to several times. That built me up to expect too much from He, She and It. You’d think I’d learn.
It’s not that He, She and It is bad. It’s not. The premise is excellent, the creation of an illegal golem (or cyborg, whatever) in the “free” town of Tikva – “free” meaning it is independent of the dozen or so corporations that now rule our ravaged planet, and doesn’t that sound ominous, given the current political and economic world scheme. The dystopia is well-drawn. The internal monologues are thoughtful and finely written, with the primary theme being humanity – what is or is not considered human, alive, in possession of a soul, free will, the right to choose. The focus on Jewish culture, Kabbalism, and the intervals with the 16th-century Golem of Prague add the right touch of mysticism.
Even with all that going for it the story remained uncompelling, and I blame the pacing, which is positively glacial. The story just plods along, interspersed with lots of exposition, and in spite of love triangles and jealousy and cyborg sex, corporate manipulation and cyber assassinations and espionage, there is not much tension. If I’d been, say, on an 18-hour flight with only this book then I’d have not minded finishing it, but I was comfortably at home with a score of other books vying for my attention. I peeked ahead to see how it all works out, and unfortunately I don’t feel I missed anything by not knowing what happened between where I left off and the ending.
Marge Piercy’s writing style is similar to Margaret Atwood’s, and I love Margaret Atwood. Perhaps I’ll try another of Piercy’s works, but this one didn’t do it for me.
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