by David Brin
Bantam Spectra; $27.95
reviewed by Paula Johanson
Maia is an individual in a world where variety is not prized. Most people are natural clones of their mothers, winter-conceived, as the founding colonists of Stratos had planned. The few men and variant women, natural conceived in summer, are second-class citizens, not valued because they are atypical, with no proven niche for their work.
Maia and Leie, her twin, leave their clone family’s home in adolescence and go out to make their way in the world. They have something to rely on which few “vars” (variant women) have: each other. As a child, Leie said: “We had the same father. We’ll go on the same boat, someday. We’ll sail, an’ see a whale, an’ ride its tail. That’s what summer kids do when they grow up.”
The hard work that lies ahead for them on men’s boats and doing rough labour in port cities does not stop them from their journey. When they must separate, and when a storm takes Leie’s ship, Maia has to learn how to go on, alone. It had been comforting knowing another person in this sea of strangers was an ally, she realises.
She is not the only lonely traveller. The newscasts speak of another, come from far off-world. There is worry about invaders and heresy, but the traveller is quiet-spoken and alone. He has also come during the mid-summer auroras, when “rutting men” are at their most lustful and cannot be trusted to keep sober company. As the seasons turn on Stratos, the season of glory frost and women’s desires will come, changing everyone’s needs and motivation. Who can be trusted now?
Maia sees more of her world, Stratos, than she had ever hoped and learns more about the people, men and vars and clones, than perhaps she wished. No one is to be trusted or suspected at the first meeting; it takes much experience before Maia learns what she must expect from herself, let alone others.
“What you see around you is the result of deliberate planning,” the traveller tells Maia. “Lysos and Founders carefully considered costs and alternatives. As the products of a scientific era, they were determined to prevent another happening here.... Lysos grew convinced that stable societies are happier ones. Deep down, most humans prefer living out their lives surrounded by comfortable certainties, guided by warm myths and metaphors, knowing that they’ll understand their children, and their children will understand them.”
Some of the clone families David Brin writes about love their variant sons and daughters dearly, though most prize their clone daughters and maintain ties with men’s sailing guilds so their var children may be sent away to make their own way in the world. In Glory Season, Brin is not writing about men and women as we know them, with our year-round lusts and our gender expectations. Nor is he writing pro- or anti-feminist rhetoric. What would change in people if natural cloning were possible? Brin asked himself, and this book is one answer.
He also explores the difference between a scientific age and a pastoral age for people who live during these era, particularly where the lives of multitudes are concerned. But Maia is an individual with her own life and ideas, in spite of being born both a twin and a lowly var without status.
Originally published by Under the Ozone Hole Number Seven – March, 1994