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Raising the Stones
Sheri S. Tepper
Bantam Spectra, 453 pages

Raising the Stones
Sheri S. Tepper
Sheri Stewart Tepper was born (in 1929) and raised in Colorado. For many years, she worked for various non-profit organizations, including the international relief organization, CARE, and she was the executive director of Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood, responsible for the administration of about 30 medical clinics in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico. In 1983, she left her job to become a full-time writer. She is the author of several acclaimed novels, including The Family Tree, Gibbon's Decline and Fall, Shadow's End, A Plague of Angels, Sideshow, and Beauty, which was voted Best Fantasy Novel of the Year by the readers of Locus magazine. She has also published novels using the pseudonyms of E.E. Horlak, B.J. Oliphant and A.J. Orde.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Beauty
SF Site Review: The Fresco
SF Site Review: Singer from the Sea
SF Site Review: Six Moon Dance
SF Site Review: The Family Tree
SF Site Review: Gibbon's Decline and Fall

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

Readers familiar with Sheri S. Tepper's other books, such as The Gate to Women's Country, Grass, or Beauty will to some extent know what to expect from Raising the Stones. Tepper likes explore a particular set of themes: the roles of men and women, the nature of religious faith and organized religion, the profoundly destructive effects of violence, and the need to live in balance with the natural world. She treats these problems in a complex way while still telling a strong story with compelling characters.

Sam Girat is the Topman of Settlement One, a small agricultural community on the newly-opened planet of "Hobbs Land." Although Sam is well respected and good at his job, he is haunted by memories of his father back in Voorstod, the land his mother fled when he was a small child. Sam yearns for legends, heroism and especially "fatherhood", something which plays no role in his matrilineal society.

Meanwhile, a mystery in Hobbs Land is catching the attention of various authorities. Settlement One was built around the crumbling temples of the extinct Owlbrit race, and the humans there appear to have quietly adopted the Owlbrit religion. When the last Owlbrit "god" dies, the humans raise their own god and then set about creating gods for all the other communities.

Their weird beliefs don't seem to do any harm. In fact, as each community raises its own temple and god, production increases and disputes fall off. But not everyone from the Galactic Authority is sure this is a good thing. Perhaps it's the beginning of an insidious invasion. Perhaps the gods of Hobbs Land should be destroyed.

Frankly, I found this part of the plot more interesting than Sam's inevitable return to his birthplace, Voorstod, a grim patriarchal theocracy where men are Real Men, women are obedient breeders and the Gharm (another race) are brutally downtrodden slaves. I always find myself in a quandary over Tepper's philosophical views. She describes many human problems with passion and insight. But stripped of her dazzling writing, her solutions are just vague feminist eco-pagan mumbo jumbo.

I also see a disturbing tendency in her books to identify male domination as the cause of all the world's problems. Tepper is always careful to include some male characters who are believable and sympathetic people; nonetheless she comes perilously close to saying that women are inherently morally superior to men.

To sum up before I'm lynched by the Goddess potluck circle, this was a strong book. It starts slowly but picks up in pace until the end, which is -- appropriately for once -- a deus ex machina. And I enjoyed much of the detail, such as the delightfully whimsical names of her characters (e.g. Jeopardy Wilm, Gotoit Quillow and Emun Theckles).

Although I usually finish Tepper's books with the conviction that she needs a really good editor to winnow her stuff down (especially those long speeches where the characters give her opinions), the intelligence of her writing goes a long way to make up for the length of her books and their didactic tendencies. As always, Tepper's book left me with a lot to think about and the intention to go back and reread it in a year or two.

Copyright © 2002 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at

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