4 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

Title: Retribution Falls

Author: Chris Wooding

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Gollancz
Publication Date: April 8 2010
Paperback: 448 pages

Stand alone or series: First in the Tales of the Ketty Jay series.

Frey is the captain of the Ketty Jay, leader of a small and highly dysfunctional band of layabouts. An inveterate womaniser and rogue, he and his gang make a living on the wrong side of the law, avoiding the heavily armed flying frigates of the Coalition Navy. With their trio of ragged fighter craft, they run contraband, rob airships and generally make a nuisance of themselves. So a hot tip on a cargo freighter loaded with valuables seems like a great prospect for an easy heist and a fast buck. Until the heist goes wrong, and the freighter explodes. Suddenly Frey isn’t just a nuisance anymore – he’s public enemy number one, with the Coalition Navy on his tail and contractors hired to take him down. But Frey knows something they don’t. That freighter was rigged to blow, and Frey has been framed to take the fall. If he wants to prove it, he’s going to have to catch the real culprit. He must face liars and lovers, dogfights and gunfights, Dukes and daemons. It’s going to take all his criminal talents to prove he’s not the criminal they think he is …

Why did I read this book: After many glowing reviews and being shortlisted for the Arthur Clarke award, I just had to. Plus look at the GORGEOUS cover.

How did I get this book: Bought

Review:

Retribution Falls has been on my radar for a while. Since its release last year, it has accumulated glowing reviews (including one in The Guardian) and was even shortlisted for the prestigious ARTHUR C. CLARKE award. When I received the ARC for its sequel Black Lung Captain which came with a line in the marketing material comparing the series to Joss Whedon’s fabulous Firefly TV Show, I felt it was about time I read it.

The story follows the dysfunctional crew of the battered freighter Ketty Jay, led by their captain Darian Frey as they cruise along from job to job, most of them of a questionable nature. When their latest commission goes terribly wrong and they are framed for the death of several people including a famous Heir, they decide to prove their innocence by any means necessary. Fleeing the law, escaping from pirates, getting immersed in political intrigue and facing former lovers as well as their own past, will the crew of the Ketty Jay come out of it, especially when their greatest challenge is to trust each other?

On the surface, Retribution Falls is an enjoyable, adventurous romp and it can present the reader with a few hours of fun read. I know I liked parts of the book, the adventure of it all especially given as how I am a sucker for the ragtag-crew-who-learns-to-like-each-other trope and I so wish I could take everything in this book as its face value and just accept it all and relax. But I find that I just can’t – damn you, brain! Why must you be so critical?

Ultimately Retribution Falls does not stand to scrutiny. For starters there is the world building which is merely glossed over. I have seen the book described as Steampunk but I simply do not have enough data about the world to be able to determine that, as dates, locations, details are all very fuzzy. I find that perhaps this is a conscious choice by the author in order to keep the furious pacing going. But oddly, that same fast and furious pacing is brought down by very clumsy exposition about the characters and an inordinate amount of telling, not showing.

For example, from the get go we are told how the characters feel about each other. Frey, the captain, loves the ship more than anything in the world and he doesn’t see his crew as a “crew”. I am told he doesn’t care for them over and over again, until I am told his feelings have changed. Crake, the one paying passenger thinks them all to be inferior (especially one of the pilots, whom he describes as an “idiot” many times over) and so on and so forth. This was repeated throughout the book but especially towards the ending in a way that it only served to telegraph what would happen next and what the story is really about. It became so predictable that I just knew what would happen to every single one of them. Forget adventure, piracy, and conspiracy, the true story being told here is that about the characters and the main arc is how they all become a real crew.

In principle that would have been awesome but the majority of the characters come across as stereotypes that are not truly fleshed out: here we have the “idiot” pilot; the “coward” second pilot, the “silent” mechanic, the “drunken” doctor. I mentioned exposition about the characters and this is what happens in this book: the story is building up then it will stop for a character to reminisce about his or her past, usually by internal monologue or by telling it to another character. Almost immediately something will happen that will bring up this very same past or its repercussions in a way that the character has to deal with it. I can’t begin to tell how much of a shame this is, because some of these characters have truly interesting pasts. Frey and Drake especially are flawed characters who made horrible decisions in life and now have to deal with them.

The comparisons with Firefly that were inevitably drawn (similar set up, world, premise, etc), are in my opinion, to the detriment of Retribution Falls. As unfair as this comparison may be the characters are nowhere near as cool as those of Firefly and Frey is certainly no Mal. But above all, one particular aspect stands out in this comparison: if there is one thing that Joss Whedon does really well, is to write awesome female characters. Out of Serenity’s crew, 4 are strong, interesting female characters who stand on their own.

And here lies my main issue with Retribution Falls which perhaps serves as a window into the world of Speculative Fiction and its known problem with female representation and characterisation. The majority of women in this novel are either faceless whores who the characters indulge their free time with or women who have been doomed by their love for the male protagonist.

The two main secondary characters are Frey’s former lovers: one has been sent to a convent after he ditched her and still sort of loves him; the other is the “villain” of the novel, a fearless pirate Trinica Dracken who could have been so cool; but she turns out to be a former lover, someone whom cowardly Frey left at the altar years and years ago and the pain of being left was so much, she tried to kill self, lost their child, left home to join a ship where she is of course, raped several times. She then hardens herself, goes through a transformation as a result of her love for this guy – becomes UGLY – and this otherwise very capable pirate is of course, thwarted by the hero of the piece at every turn. The problem with this is that both these characters exist only in relation to the lame male character.

What about the crew of Ketty Jay? Out of 7, one is female ( I am not counting the other one, Bess, because she is, surprise! A Golem who is used as brute force). And Jez is quite possibly my favourite character of the piece: she is clever, strong, interesting. But I have a problem with how others see her. Right in the beginning of the novel when she is being recruited to join the crew, this is how Frey decides that she is the one:

Her features were petite and appealing but she was rather plain, boyish and very pale. That was also good. An overly attractive woman was fatal on a craft full of men. They were distracting and tended to substitute charm and flirtatiousness for doing any actual work. Besides, Frey would feel obligated to sleep with her, and that never worked out well.

This is very, very problematic. A female character needs to be plain or boyish (see how being “male” is better?) or else she is a sexual distraction?

When one is writing a review like this one, one must consider whether these are written with intentional self-awareness. Are there repercussions for such characterisations? These may be “in character” but do the male characters learn the “errors of their way” or at the very least do the female characters regain respect by being generally made of awesome even if the male characters do not see it?

No, I would say not in this particular example. In fact towards the very end of the novel Jez saves the day and it is implied that she does so by doing sexual favours even though, up until that point, she was the cleverer character in the entire piece, perfecly capable of saving the day without having to use her vagina.

Am I alone in reading the misogyny – by number and by characterisation – present in this novel? No, thankfully, I am not.

I have to say: I am completely astonished by the award nomination – I can’t think how Retribution Falls can be representative of the best in the genre. Fun, yes. But it can’t be top of the line and it certainly can’t, shouldn’t be that, when it represents female characters like that. I am sure most will think of me as a party pooper but these things need to be brought up and discussed more often because after all, characters do not exist in a vacuum, they are CREATED by their writers and are therefore a matter of choice. Frey could have remained a despicable, coward, misogynistic, flawed character without the female characters being depicted the way they were.

In the end, the experience of reading Retribution Falls was like eating a mixed bag of Turkish Delight blindfolded. Sometimes I would get the pistachio flavoured ones (yay) but the majority of them were rose-flavoured (yuck!) .

Notable Quotes/Parts: There is this once scene I thought was pretty cool and super tense – when they are navigating towards Retribution Falls.

Verdict: Retribution Falls has a good premise and is a potentially fun read but it is brought down by clumsy writing and poor characterisations – especially the female ones.

Rating:4 – Bad but not without some merit

Reading Next: A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin.

36 Comments

  • KMont
    June 24, 2010 at 5:18 am

    Holy crap. This was the review I was looking forward to all week, and the book too. It all just sounds so…yuck. The portrayal of the female characters is atrocious. Not that you needed me to voice that or anything. I’m just so disappointed.

  • Lisa Parkin
    June 24, 2010 at 7:02 am

    I always love a good pirate novel, so this review caught my eye. But with all that misogyny, I felt like I was back in post world war II fiction class again.

    No one likes a weak female character…especially females. 🙁 Plus, all that poor world building is just a shame-that’s what usually draws in readers from the start.

    If you’re still in the mood for a good pirate story, I suggest Mad Kestrel by Misty Massey. As far as I can tell, no misogyny there!

    Thanks for a great post!

  • Renay
    June 24, 2010 at 8:48 am

    My thoughts here are basically “ARG”.

  • Shennandoah Diaz
    June 24, 2010 at 8:53 am

    Great points! Telling rather than showing is surprisingly rampant. I see a great deal of it in submissions and critique groups. I’m surprised if it had that much of it that it made it past editorial. As an avid speculative fiction fan and a woman, I often take issue with the cookie cutter female types people try to peddle–especially when they can’t exist on their own terms.

    Thanks for your educated opinion. Always makes book buying easier!

  • Marie
    June 24, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Bummer! I saw the cover and was hoping that the book would be as beautiful.

    Thanks for the review.

  • Akin
    June 24, 2010 at 11:16 am

    The telling and not showing bit is bad. I hate when authors do that.

    But I’m still ambivalent about whether or not the book is misogynistic. I understand that strong female characters are really awesome, but then again, I don’t know if having weak female characters means the book is misogynistic.

    I mean, there are weak women out there in the world. There are also weak, horrible men too, as well as strong, respectable men.

    If a writer writes a book about a bunch of people killing other people, he’s not considered a murderer. If he writes a book that portrays a weak female character … well … I don’t know whether to call it misogyny. I’ve read a couple of books by female authors that I could very well call misandry because of their “weird” potrayal of men.

    Either way, great review.

  • Ana
    June 24, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Hi Akin,

    I never said that the female characters are portrayed as weak – quite the contrary, I mention that they are strong.

    But there is a difference between portrayal and characterisation – for example a female character can be characterised as either weak or strong but still be so portrayed in a mysogynistic way. This is IMO what happens here.

    I also find your example disingenuous: for starters, there is no accusation against the author being done here. But also, there is a huge difference between being a murderer and mysogyny if only because mysogyny is cultural and it pervades society and sometimes it is so ingrained a person doesn’t even realise it. Did you see the quote I inserted? About Jez being plain and that being good because this way she will not be a distraction? How can I not take this seriously when there is no further reference to this, no realisation that this is wrong and when it happens in real life?

    and yes of course that there is misandry – OF COURSE there is but only because these things exist in various forms do not excuse it!!! I know you are not that saying that but it is coming across as though you are.

  • Jamie
    June 24, 2010 at 11:59 am

    I’ll believe anything you say about it, just b/c you know your Firefly/Serenity facts. 😀

  • Ana
    June 24, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Jamie: Browncoats forever! I do not take such comparisons lightly, Firefly is one of my favorite shows ever.

  • Akin
    June 24, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    @ Ana
    I construed your negative reaction to the female characters as weakness on their part. But if you say otherwise, cool.

    Misogyny does pervade our culture, but I still don’t agree with your concept that misogyny is a greater crime than murder (even though they’re different), and so therefore books that portray misogyny must be treated with special scrutiny. There are lots of things that happen to people every day, some worse than misogyny, and most of these things are portrayed in books.

    It boils down to artistic freedom. I see no reason why writers should not be allowed to write about idiots who are not respectable to women if they’re allowed to write about idiots who paint the ground they walk on with the blood of innocent people. I see no reason why writers should not be allowed to write about gay people having sex if they are allowed to write about straight people having sex. I see no reason why writers should not be allowed to write about gay men making straight jokes if they are allowed to write about straight men making gay jokes.

    Yeah, the character in the book is a dick, and we probably wouldn’t hang with him in reality, but does that mean the writer shouldn’t have created him so?

    Mind you, I do think that there must be a limit to artistic freedom, and I guess that’s where we disagree. For you, this is the limit when it comes to the portrayal of women in fiction. For me, the limit is somewhere a little farther.

  • KMont
    June 24, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Akin, why are you taking Ana’s scrutiny of misogyny in the book as some kind of statement on the freedom writers should/should not have? There’s been no mention of “limiting” writers. I see her discussing an aspect of the book that didn’t work for her. Can she really “allow” an author to do anything? Nope. Where was there a call to limit artistic freedom?? I don’t get where you’re seeing all this.

    “Special scrutiny” or not, it’s in there, so why not discuss it and weigh pros and cons? If writers should be allowed to write it, then readers are “allowed” to discuss it, like it, dislike it and say why. As if any allowance from was ever necessary.

  • Erika (Jawas Read, Too)
    June 24, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Interesting review, Ana!

    The cover is absolutely lovely and I’ll admit: the references to Fireflyhad me curious, but only to a certain extent. What you bring up here with regard to how women are portrayed is off-putting for me. I may still pick this up in the future, but I’m not sure. Is the male captain always so ignorant? Is that just a part of who he is? I get up in arms over how women are treated in fiction (being one, I’d say that helps my extreme sensitivity), too.

    I guess I’m just a bit hesitant to try this one for the moment. 🙂 When/If I do read it, I’ll keep your thoughts into consideration!

  • katiebabs
    June 24, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    As long as books are being written and read, readers will be allowed to criticize an author’s work. If they have issue with a character or a plot point, they are allowed to say so. Being critical of a person’s work doesn’t limit the artist’s creativity.

  • KMont
    June 24, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Erika, I agree, the cover is fabulous. I like the fonts used, but I saw a different font used on Amazon U.S. site and it’s cowboy junky! A really overused (yet fun) font. It made me want to cry because it takes away from the cover art. 🙁

    http://www.amazon.com/Retribution-Falls-Tales-Ketty-Jay/dp/0575085169/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1277399674&sr=1-1

  • KMont
    June 24, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Meant to say the font is CALLED Cowboy Junkies. Or something like.

  • Ana
    June 24, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    @ Akin

    I have never said nor would I ever say that misogyny is a greater crime than murder. Nor did i ever say that books that portray misogyny should be treated with special scrunity and I certainly DID not say what a writer should or should not be allowed to write.

    I DO find odd your arguments: you do realise this is a review site – and that a review should be critical and raise points such as these right?

    Let me emphasize again that I am all for artistic freedom, however the portrayal of women in fantasy/sf/genre fiction is something that bothers me, as mentioned mentioned in the review.

  • Ana
    June 24, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    @ Erika -yes he is an ass. 🙄

  • Anon
    June 24, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Wow! That was an AMAZING review! Thanks Ana for saving me from a book that would have been a wall-banger for me. That quote that you lifted would have set me off as well–just for a start.

    BTW, if anyone wants recommendations for strong women characters in fantasy/sci fi settings, may I strongly recommend Kage Baker’s “The Company” series to you? They are wonderful!

    I have to wonder whether there were any female judges on the Arthur C. Clarke award board. This seems like a very odd choice if so.

  • danielle
    June 24, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Aww, I love Chris Woodings YA stuff. That’s a shame 😛

  • Akin
    June 24, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    @KMont:
    You’ve misunderstood my replies. First off, like you said, as long as the book is out there everyone is free to discuss it. I never said Ana shouldn’t be allowed to discuss the book. She wrote a review and stated that she thought the characterisation of the female characters was misogynistic. That’s absolutely fine. Nothing wrong with that. I simply entered the discussion and stated my opinion, which was I didn’t think the characterisation was misogynistic, and I gave my reasons.

    Secondly, the statement on limiting writers – again, you’ve taking that out of context. Of course, Ana never stated that the writers should be limited or their creative freedom should be taken from them. I said that as a way to explain my opinion. Ana clearly feels the “misogyny” portrayed in the characterisation of the women kills the book for her, because misogyny is wrong (and yes, it is) and as a woman she is affected by it. Her opinion, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I, on the other hand, feel that (a) the characterisation is not misogynistic, and (b) even though the female characters, despite their strengths and weaknesses, are presented in a way that isn’t favourable (their lives revolve around a guy who is a dick and doesn’t care about them), it’s OK for the female characters to be that way in the book, because there are plenty of other unfavourable concepts that make their way into books (murder, drugs, unsafe sex, diseases, discrimination, etc). And I explained the reason these concepts are written in books is because of artistic freedom. My opinion. I wasn’t in any way, shape or form accusing Ana of ill-treating the book. I was only stating my opinion on a public forum. I mean, that is the point of discussing – to state an opinion, is it not?

    @Ana
    After I said mentioned murderers being portrayed in books, you said: “there is a huge difference between being a murderer and misogyny, if only because misogyny is cultural and it pervades society and sometimes it is so ingrained a person doesn’t even realise it.”
    I interpreted your statement as: misogyny is cultural problem that can easily be ingrained into people without them realising it, as opposed to murder, hence writers should be very careful of their portrayal of misogyny.
    In reply, I said that while murder and misogyny are easily as bad and wrong as one another in today’s culture, and if we are going to treat misogyny in literature in one particular way then we should treat murder in the same way and not apply any double standards.
    Now, my reply was based on my interpretation of your statement. So, if I misinterpreted you then I take full responsibility and I apologise.

    Also, as I said above to KMont, I’m not asking you not to be critical about a book or not to state your opinion. This is a review site, and you posted your review. Am I not allowed to discuss your review?

    This is what I don’t understand about the blogosphere, especially to do with books. And I don’t mean to sound accusatory. It’s just, why is it that when a reviewer respectfully states their opinion about a book and a poster states his opinion, which is different from the reviewer’s, about the same book, the poster is suddenly seen to be trying to “stop” discussion or cause problems or start arguments??? I don’t get it. I really don’t. If my opinion correlated with yours then we’d all be singing a different tune.

    Anyway, for what is worth, sorry if caused any problems. I didn’t mean to start any arguments, and it was definitely not my intention to imply that you shouldn’t criticise or analyse the book.

  • Emily
    June 24, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Wow, I definitely wasn’t expecting this in your review! And all the other ones I’ve read have been so positive! (I somehow managed to not read the other reviews you linked that also talked about misogyny.

    I am though a bit sad that I read your review before reading the book (that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy reading it!), simply because when I read it now I’m going to be on the lookout for statements portrayals I find denigrating towards women. I never like going into a book with a bias like that, even if it’s 100% true. 🙁

  • Akin
    June 24, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    Crap. Typo in my post above. It should read: “In reply, I said that murder and misogyny are easily as bad and wrong as one another in today’s culture”. The “while” shouldn’t be there. Bugger. Sorry.

  • Ky
    June 24, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    Omg! Chris Wooding is brilliant! Love his books! Haven’t read any of his more sci-fi/ steampunk stuff yet but I can’t wait to get my hands on them! Haunting of Alaizabel Cray is one of my all time favorite novels. Ever!

  • Sergio Gonçalves
    June 25, 2010 at 2:45 am

    The question that hangs in the balance is the rating you gave because of that supossedly character? I have been a follower of the Smugglers for some time but there are something here that I don’t like.

    Just because he did a girl with that faults or whatever you rated a 4? and the world building, the story and so on?

    So any book that makes a book with black personage that in any way has some characteristics not good you are strongly against? Why? And when I say black personage I say womens, gays, jews and so on..

    I think that there are dumb, shallow womens and there are some male that are pigs and also dumb. Why not portrayed it?

    I think this review along with others you made in the past few months are not that good. I will not make my intention on buying books on this blog because of this and other things…
    I wonder how you would rate a novel without womens… or with nazis or other hot subjects.

  • Jodie
    June 25, 2010 at 3:43 am

    I remember Eves Alexandria pointing out misogyny issues in their review and I could be all aggrieved and agree with you, but we each know where we are with feminism vs mysogny (feminism, ‘s cool ok.) instead let me focus on this:

    ‘perfecly capable of saving the day without having to use her vagina.’

    Pllllllllllleeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaassssssssseeeeeee make Booksmuggler swag with that saying on it. I would buy t-shirts for everyone I know!

  • Jodie
    June 25, 2010 at 3:44 am

    Also I totally spelt misogyny wrong that second time because it is too lame to deserve standardised spelling 😉

  • Sam Sykes
    June 25, 2010 at 5:25 am

    Watch out, y’all, here comes Sam Sykes to expertly straddle the fence.

    Books are an interactive medium, far more so than any other media out there, because so much is up to interpretation. It’s pretty cool when you think about it because even the most straightforward designs out there can gain wildly different interpretations.

    Personally? I could see the misogyny accusation; I might think it’s a little too far to take an accusation of a less-than-original character, but I could see it. But I lent my copy of this book to my sister and (I asked her after reading this review) she said she didn’t see anything resembling the sort.

    In short: if you saw misogyny, it’s there. If you didn’t, it’s not. This is the beauty of books.

    But God damn, this statement “thanks for saving me from reading this book” is a little terrifying to read.

  • KMont
    June 25, 2010 at 5:47 am

    Sam, there’s no reason to be scared of such a statement. Some readers take what they get from reviews to decide if they want to pass on a book or not, read it later, etc. It’s not that terrible of a thing, it’s certainly yet to be proven that it hurts an author, their sales, or anything like. The review didn’t force them to decide this. They did it on their own with information they went looking for. People do this every day with plenty of products besides books.

    I didn’t think the book was for me at first, yesterday, but the more I think about it, it might be worth a read. One day. But I have a lot of books to read currently and ones I know I DO want to buy, so it’s helpful to read reviews and make some decisions with the info therein that I decide is helpful.

    All I know at this point from this weird book discussion is that I appreciate reviewers like Thea and Ana who are good at catching the undercurrents in a book, their being so in tune with what they’re reading and how it affects their personal beliefs about what’s been written. It’s made me realize that I often treat books too much like a lark, and who cares if there’s a Big Issue in the book. I try to be more aware when I read these days and I’m glad to have learned the value of this from two great reviewers.

  • Sam Sykes
    June 25, 2010 at 6:26 am

    Right, let me clarify things a little before things get out of hand. I was discussing this with KMont a little earlier and it struck me that my phrasing was a tad off.

    By saying there was something terrifying in the statement, I was extending that to the idea that people were thanking Ana for saving them from reading. That’s not at all what she was doing and it was an unfair statement for me to make (though I swear I thought I was doing good!)

    But, anyway, the idea is that, if RETRIBUTION FALLS grabbed you to begin with, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t go on in and see if it whets your whistle. Judging by the number of reviews that say it’s good, I’d say you stand a pretty even chance of discovering something fun (it’s worth noting that she did say it was quite fun!)

  • Kay
    June 25, 2010 at 10:10 am

    *swears* I actually spent money on this book and now I want to wish it into oblivion. grrrrrrrrrrrr

  • Erika (Jawas Read, Too)
    June 25, 2010 at 10:18 am

    @Kmont: Eep! You’re right, the font is plastered in the middle of the artwork! Titles are important, but I get a little sad when they get in the way of enjoying the cover art..

    @Ana: Well, that’s not encouraging, hahaha!

  • Nic
    June 26, 2010 at 1:51 am

    Thanks for the link, and for the review!

    Akin & Sergio:

    Cheers for hauling out the usual strawfeminists. Yes, astonishingly, in real life women are (like men) individuals and therefore not all of them are paragons of good sense and strength. Fiction should indeed reflect this. Well done. And if there was a single female character in this book who *wasn’t* portrayed entirely in terms of her sexual attractiveness to men and/or whose storyline *didn’t* revolve around sexualised humiliation for no reason – your objections to this review might have some foundation. But thanks for playing.

    Sam Sykes:

    Nonsense. Just because someone misses a given theme when reading a book doesn’t mean it’s not there.

  • Niall
    June 26, 2010 at 2:11 am

    Dang, Nic beat me to it with her response to Mr Sykes. To be a bit more long-winded about it, I’d say that yes, books are (in general) sufficiently complex objects that there can be competing, supported, valid interpretations of a given text — but you have to get to the point of providing that support, either when supporting or criticising a book, because all readings are partial. Everyone misses things, nobody takes everything into account, and you’re allowed to revise your opinion as new perspectives are introduced.

    In the case of Retribution Falls and misogyny, I think there are actually two things going on. One, I think the world and many of the characters are intentionally misogynistic and that we’re meant to notice — I think the quote Ana picks out about Jez’s recruitment actually speaks to this. It’s completely in Frey’s perspective: those retrograde attitudes belong to him, and we (and the book) can stand outside them. Similarly there’s the mockery of Pinn’s belief that there’s a woman waiting for him at home when he’s completed his adventures; I don’t think you put that in a novel and have other characters recapitulate the same patterns of behaviour if you don’t intend your readers to notice. I have no objections to a book that asks us to notice and be critical of a misogynist setting.

    However, the second thing that’s going on is what I might call a structural misogyny. That is, once you get away from the male characters’ reactions, there’s the matter of how the narrative treats the female characters vs the male characters. And there, as Nic and Ana have pointed out, there’s an ugly imbalance that can’t be attributed to the setting or to the other characters. The female characters occupy a more limited spectrum of situation and response than the men do; their character and plot development springs from a more limited range of issues; they get less screen time, and are less important to the narrative. The fact that Jez’s final actions take place off-screen, and that we get more of the male characters’ reactions to those actions than we get of her own feelings about them, is the most glaring example, but it’s a pattern that recurs throughout the book.

  • Anon
    June 28, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Anon here again. Just wanted to point out that men writing books using women characters as ‘helpmates’ for male characters is a big pet peeve for me. By that I mean that they are only included in the book to provide care, feeding, sexing up, and prettifying things for the men. They can be mothers, sister, lovers, whores, whatever but they are usually have only 2-dimensional characters and are there to support the males. This is boring and annoying to me (and frankly stupid to me) since women tend to buy and read more books than men–so if you piss off your female readers, it might not be a good idea for you as an author. Now, granted, I’m not 20 anymore and I have maybe more experience with misogyny than a younger woman. But Ana’s review articulated exactly what would have made this a wall-banger for me. Because I NOTICE this in too many books.

    You may not agree with me. That’s fine. It’s my opinion, mine only.

    I haven’t read any books by this author and have no opinion about them. But if I had picked up this book, this issue would have annoyed me.

    I prefer and seek out books with women characters who are intelligent, strong and have self respect. I don’t like ciphers who are supporting characters.

  • Paul blue
    November 9, 2013 at 4:10 am

    Pretty sad review considering it seems a lot of people are overlooking this book base on what is obviously a feminist complex you have.
    I think changing the females would twist the world create around this book an make it unbelievable if I’m honest.
    As people must compare it to firefly (one o my favourite shows too) it is also much grittier and joss whedons simple cartoony characters wouldn’t fit in here.
    And let’s not forget the mechanic got on the crew of the firefly by shaving the first mechanic and one of the other main character is a whore?! Lol
    Anyway, through out the rest of the books the characters become much more and you realise how deep they all really are and I ended up thinking they were much cooler than fireflys characters. Especially silo.
    Just my opinion!!
    Please try and realise that some books aren’t for kids to teach lessons to. Some are just plain how it is.

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