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The Shore of Women

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In a story set in a post-nuclear future where women rule the world and men are expelled from cities to wilderness, a meeting between a man and an exiled woman triggers a series of feelings, actions, and events. Reprint.


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In a story set in a post-nuclear future where women rule the world and men are expelled from cities to wilderness, a meeting between a man and an exiled woman triggers a series of feelings, actions, and events. Reprint.

30 review for The Shore of Women

  1. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I really enjoyed this book's exploration of daring feminist themes like "Wouldn't it be awful if the world was controlled by domineering man-hating lesbian separatists who forced all the men to live in primitive squalor? I bet they'd ostracize any woman who even wondered if men should be treated like more than sperm factories." and "Know what's way more natural and fulfilling than same-sex relationships? Heterosexual monogamy! Your lesbian commune will think it's gross, but follow your heart!" Tr I really enjoyed this book's exploration of daring feminist themes like "Wouldn't it be awful if the world was controlled by domineering man-hating lesbian separatists who forced all the men to live in primitive squalor? I bet they'd ostracize any woman who even wondered if men should be treated like more than sperm factories." and "Know what's way more natural and fulfilling than same-sex relationships? Heterosexual monogamy! Your lesbian commune will think it's gross, but follow your heart!" Truly a ground-breaking and radical commentary on our patriarchal society.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Empress

    A man writes a dystopian piece of literature where the government is consisted of men and women are oppressed - it's just a work of fiction. A woman writes a dystopian piece of literature where the totalitarian government is consisted of women and oppresses men - it is immediately labeled feminist. A man writes a dystopian piece of literature where the government is consisted of men and women are oppressed - it's just a work of fiction. A woman writes a dystopian piece of literature where the totalitarian government is consisted of women and oppresses men - it is immediately labeled feminist.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Olivia

    Warning: This review is full of expletives. This book was terrible. It wasn't just the story, or the huge boring info dumps. The ebook was full of odd discrepancies. Like, the main male character was Arvil in the text and Avril in the headings. Lol. Capital C's were rendered as G's. That type of thing. The first section focused on a female character inside the city who doesn't know what to do with her life. She's bad at math (FUCK YOU, "feminist" author) and besides, science and stuff hadn't progr Warning: This review is full of expletives. This book was terrible. It wasn't just the story, or the huge boring info dumps. The ebook was full of odd discrepancies. Like, the main male character was Arvil in the text and Avril in the headings. Lol. Capital C's were rendered as G's. That type of thing. The first section focused on a female character inside the city who doesn't know what to do with her life. She's bad at math (FUCK YOU, "feminist" author) and besides, science and stuff hadn't progressed in hundreds of years because men are forced to live in hunter gatherer bands, and everyone knows that innovation and science are propelled by war and the need to dominate, which women don't have (Oh, FUCK YOU). The next section is about an exiled woman (who is scared of everything, and embodies every gender essentialist cliche ever) and her male protector. They look for a refuge where she can live without fear of men, but really don't find it. Through most of the book, her "protector" whines about his blue balls. It takes the form of "fantasy dialogue". "Your spell is powerful over me" and "I long for your blessings. " Like, STFU, dude. If you'd only murdered her like the "Goddess" told you to, we'd both be suffering a lot less right now. Of course, they fall in love and crap, and are boring while they do it. I hated this book. A LOT. It needed an editor, at least. It was about five hundred pages too long, and probably shouldn't exist in the first place. Here's the entire plot: Lesbians are bad (and also very boring), but men are worse. Less boring, but still worse. Much, much worse. There was nothing here that I would recognize as feminist, unless it was some warped-ass MRA definition of the word. Negative stars are not possible, which makes me sad.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sasha

    I feel like some of the reviewers didn’t really get the book. It’s a think-piece, not a mindless read, so if you take the story at face value you aren’t going to get the whole point. To clarify: the book challenges social norms. If you take those challenges at their face value (as the characters in the novel do) you’re not going to get the same critical look at society that you would if you view them as criticism of the norm. This happens in multiple places in the book: the female-led society, th I feel like some of the reviewers didn’t really get the book. It’s a think-piece, not a mindless read, so if you take the story at face value you aren’t going to get the whole point. To clarify: the book challenges social norms. If you take those challenges at their face value (as the characters in the novel do) you’re not going to get the same critical look at society that you would if you view them as criticism of the norm. This happens in multiple places in the book: the female-led society, the sexual segregation, homosexuality as a norm, women in science and tech as a norm, etc. The book also isn’t feminist in the idea that women are better than men. But it is feminist in that it shows women in power. Moreover, the point of the book is that both men and women are equally capable of committing the same (and different) horrors and subjugation against one another, and that only if we treat each other as true equals will we reach a lasting peace. Welcome to your third-wave feminism - everyone is equal to everyone else.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Joanna

    This book is often given a spot on lists of classic feminist sci-fi. The post-apocolyptic setting tells a story of women living in high-tech enclaves/cities while men are banished to the wilderness to live in hunter/gatherer bands. The men are encouraged to worship the female Goddess and are "called" to the enclaves to provide sperm. Boy children are sent out to live with the men while daughters remain in the enclaves. The book had two major problems for me: 1) The overarching hetero-normative to This book is often given a spot on lists of classic feminist sci-fi. The post-apocolyptic setting tells a story of women living in high-tech enclaves/cities while men are banished to the wilderness to live in hunter/gatherer bands. The men are encouraged to worship the female Goddess and are "called" to the enclaves to provide sperm. Boy children are sent out to live with the men while daughters remain in the enclaves. The book had two major problems for me: 1) The overarching hetero-normative tone. Basically, the men and women have same-sex relationships in their communities, but the ultimate plotline is that a male-female relationship is superior and ideal if it can be obtained without too much power disparity. The male hero no longer has interest in other men once he has true love with a banished woman. 2) The passages actually describing the sex were out of place and strange. They ran overlong and seemed like the author wasn't sure if she was trying to write an erotic passage (like the steamy scenes from The Clan of the Cave Bear and its ilk) or a purely descriptive one. A more minor complaint is that the world-building was inconsistent. The cities were not fully described--no explanation was given for the food production for the enclaves, the political system was only partially fleshed out. Still, the battle of the sexes aspect and the exploration of the power dynamic made the book interesting.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Stefanie

    It feels very weird to give this book 4 stars. Because there was so much that I did *not* like about it, so much that was flawed, and yet I found the story really interesting nonetheless and I expect I'll keep thinking about it long after having finished it. *light spoilers ahead* To start off with what's not likeable: oh sweet gasping goodness, the gender essentialism. The world, where females live apart from men in technologically advanced enclaves and men live on the outside in caveman-like ban It feels very weird to give this book 4 stars. Because there was so much that I did *not* like about it, so much that was flawed, and yet I found the story really interesting nonetheless and I expect I'll keep thinking about it long after having finished it. *light spoilers ahead* To start off with what's not likeable: oh sweet gasping goodness, the gender essentialism. The world, where females live apart from men in technologically advanced enclaves and men live on the outside in caveman-like bands, is going to be hard for any modern reader to accept. Somehow, women have completely forgotten what it's like to live with and have sex with men. Because I guess men f*ed up civilization, and the women kicked them out of the enclaves once they started to go out into the recovering world? I can't even begin to list all the questions I have about how and why this world would come about and be sustainable (and actually, am sort of more interested in THAT story), and I suspect many readers won't be able to suspend their disbelief at all. Also: the storytelling style itself. It's a lot of "tell, don't show" going on. This book has a lot of Big Ideas it wants to convey, and the narrative style is heavy on exposition because of it. Despite the shifting narrators, from Laissa to Arvil to Birana, the voices all sound kinda samey. And as far as characterization goes, I feel like there was an incredible amount of backstory between Laissa and Birana that it would have been really nice to see, and made the ending pay off a bit more emotionally. This is prime example (not the only one) where the Big Ideas in the story take precedence over character development. I suppose more frequent readers of traditional sci-fi may be more comfortable with this than me. But anyway, if you can put all this aside - and boy, is it a lot - the story itself actually presents some compelling conflict and moves from one challenge to the next in an interesting fashion. Yeah, I was rolling my eyes at all the common tropes of heterosexual monogamy ("if anyone else even looks at you, I will kill them! Because that's what love is! *EYEROLL*), but I did cheer for Birana and Arvil to figure things out, and I give kudos to Sargent for not just making their inevitably slide into a sexual relationship end all hearts and stars and flowers. They still struggle with one another, even up through the end, and I respect that realism. I also liked that the end did not explode the whole foundation of the society Sargent was writing about. It takes more than one series of events like those in this story to change a world, and I felt that what happens with Laissa and where the story leaves us was believable and thought-provoking. This would be a great book for a book club - lots of interesting discussion and debate guaranteed.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Diana Kathryn Plopa

    This dystopian story deals with the reversal of roles between men and women, and who holds the power. The investigation of what might be different if women were in charge was a fascinating premise, heightened by the meticulous physical descriptions of people, places and survival tactics on both sides of the wall. I was very impressed with Pamela Sargent's storytelling in this book. Her use of an involved character to tell the story was especially interesting to me. I was unaware who, exactly, th This dystopian story deals with the reversal of roles between men and women, and who holds the power. The investigation of what might be different if women were in charge was a fascinating premise, heightened by the meticulous physical descriptions of people, places and survival tactics on both sides of the wall. I was very impressed with Pamela Sargent's storytelling in this book. Her use of an involved character to tell the story was especially interesting to me. I was unaware who, exactly, the narrator was until the very last chapter. This made the story much more engaging to me. The characters are easy to relate to, and don't seem all that different from the people I know today. This is a story that has a level of realism that, if considered without prejudice, is extremely plausable. I listened to the audiobook version, and was impressed with the use of two different voices, one male and one female, to show the distinct differences not only between characters, but between the divisions of society, as well. Having two narrators made the story much more engaging for me.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nika

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I might have loved this if I'd read it in its historical context, but as a feminist and sci fi fan in 2016, it was a hard slog. There are characters, and they do develop, but it reads much more as a vehicle for expressing a set of (outdated) ideas about men and women than it does as a book about people. Contrast it with Nicola Griffith's excellent "Ammonite" to see how you might explore a single-gender society and also write a beautiful story about people, rather than a stiff narrative about ide I might have loved this if I'd read it in its historical context, but as a feminist and sci fi fan in 2016, it was a hard slog. There are characters, and they do develop, but it reads much more as a vehicle for expressing a set of (outdated) ideas about men and women than it does as a book about people. Contrast it with Nicola Griffith's excellent "Ammonite" to see how you might explore a single-gender society and also write a beautiful story about people, rather than a stiff narrative about ideas. Edited to add: On further thought, would historical context have helped? It wouldn't have fixed the lack of dimensional characters, and I'm not convinced it would have helped the gender politics, either. The book describes a world in which women protect themselves from men by keeping men dependent on sex with women. (Because if men have access to female bodies, they are physiologically dependent on having sex with those bodies. Of course.) But the female bodies in this case are super sophisticated VR - the women themselves are all lesbian, and unlike the men (who have sex with each other when they're not getting "blessed" by the VR ladies), they are not physiologically dependent on sex with men. Rather, they're repulsed by it. So the women are just using sex to wield power. Was that really a sophisticated feminist line of thought in 1986? A big part of what ultimately repulsed me was the way the relationship between the male and female leads developed. The ultimate "revolutionary" takeaway from this book was supposed to be the concept of truly equal partnership between men and women, including truly mutual, equally pleasurable sex. Except the male lead (Arvil) WOULD NOT STOP badgering the female lead (Birana) until she gave in and slept with him. She told him over and over and over again that she didn't want to, to the point that she had to concoct excuses that she was then forced to defend when he saw the cracks in them. When they finally do it for the first time, it's very much a case of her giving in to the inevitable, instead of her doing something she genuinely wants to do. She has started to feel some real attraction towards him, but she is not at the point that he demands she be at. They start to do it, it's great, but then she freaks out and they fight, and then she relents and they finish. She bleeds. How revolutionary. From that point on her desire and consent seem real enough, so okay. But she had to be coerced, and he couldn't just fucking chill because physiological dependence on heterosexual sex. Oh yeah, for all the same-sex sex relationships that are mentioned, there next to no references to same sex life partnerships. The implication is that the lifelong partner bond is a hetero thing. Again: how revolutionary. TL;DR: I thought more about this book overnight and woke up mad.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Megan Baxter

    I have now read at least three books that are about a world without men. Or rather, if not a world without men, a world where women are the safekeepers of civilization, and men are exiled to short brutish lives in the wilderness. There's a distinct women/urban centers/civilization vs. men/wilderness/savagery vibe to most of them. (The third, to be precise, is about a world where a plague killed off all the men. Oh, and of course, there's Y: The Last Man as well. So, four.) With the exception of I have now read at least three books that are about a world without men. Or rather, if not a world without men, a world where women are the safekeepers of civilization, and men are exiled to short brutish lives in the wilderness. There's a distinct women/urban centers/civilization vs. men/wilderness/savagery vibe to most of them. (The third, to be precise, is about a world where a plague killed off all the men. Oh, and of course, there's Y: The Last Man as well. So, four.) With the exception of the graphic novel, the three others were written by women in the late 1980s to early 1990s. Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here. In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  10. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    Magical storytelling I am retired now and catching up on my classic science fiction reading. I wish I had read this 20 years ago. Told from multiple perspectives, paced beautifully and with a little plot twist at the end, The Shore of Women is at its core a love story. But there is no fairy tale ending, no Cinderella, no Snow White, in this tale. It is the story of a man and a woman trying to survive in a brutal world not of their making. This is another book that anyone who likes great science Magical storytelling I am retired now and catching up on my classic science fiction reading. I wish I had read this 20 years ago. Told from multiple perspectives, paced beautifully and with a little plot twist at the end, The Shore of Women is at its core a love story. But there is no fairy tale ending, no Cinderella, no Snow White, in this tale. It is the story of a man and a woman trying to survive in a brutal world not of their making. This is another book that anyone who likes great science fiction should have on their reading list.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Given our collective frustration with the election/current administration/ongoing hot mess of the US right now, I figured that some good old 80s feminist sci-fi would soothe my soul. The back of this one promised to cure what ails me, with its post-apocalyptic, toss those foolish men out of our cities, sisterhood surviving 4-evah vibe going on. This is the tale of a young woman raised in the technologically advanced city of the future where education and stewardship of humanity are valued goals, Given our collective frustration with the election/current administration/ongoing hot mess of the US right now, I figured that some good old 80s feminist sci-fi would soothe my soul. The back of this one promised to cure what ails me, with its post-apocalyptic, toss those foolish men out of our cities, sisterhood surviving 4-evah vibe going on. This is the tale of a young woman raised in the technologically advanced city of the future where education and stewardship of humanity are valued goals, and a young man raised with a spear in his hand in the wilds beyond the city walls. After an apocalypse of some sort (it was the 80s, so one would assume nukes were involved), humanity eventually scraped themselves up, built some nice places to live, then kicked the men out to fend for themselves since they were the ones that blew everything up in the first place. Women live in utopian peace and bland prosperity, where the worst thing to happen is that scientific innovation seems to have stagnated somewhere around the time that extended lifespan and carefree excellent health were achieved. The now feral menfolk live in brutal caveman tribes out in the wilderness, kill each other over campsites or a good hunk of meat, and are indoctrinated to worship the image of the Goddess to keep them tractable. It's a setup ripe to explore the basic urges of humanity, the essence of social conditioning and how it manipulates all of us, and maybe even the biology of love. Oh Ms Sargent, what have you done here? 'The Shore of Women' unfortunately reads like a very early work where an author has an excellent idea and then not quite the craft to carry it off. All the young scientist women of the city are Mean Girls (tm) that almost literally tell our heroine "you can't sit with us" due to her bizarre interest in the liberal arts (Writers? Eww!). Each of these women are in philosophic lock-step with each other, and while that may be the point of the lack of societal innovation, it makes for a whole pile of indistinguishably one-dimensional characters. Even after she gets booted from the city and is eventually forced to question the society in which she was raised, her struggle is to resist change, not overcome it, making her an obnoxiously passive heroine. By the time our 2 main characters consummate the lust he's been conditioned to desire and has been nudging her to accept (which is exactly as Nice Guy (tm) creepy pressuring as it sounds), she gets to learn that sex with men is a whole new ecstasy that's never been possible before in her whole bland, safe, stifling lesbian life. Seriously. The final nail in the coffin is that despite her educated and worldly upbringing in contrast to his practical and simplistic caveman mindset, these two characters have the same narrative voice, and I don't particularly care what happens to either one.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jessie Potts

    I'm torn. I enjoyed this book and felt like there were a lot of good parts and aspects that made it an enjoyable dystopian/alternate future novel. At the same time, it bothered me that this was called a feminist sci-fi book. Just because women are in charge does not make it a feminist book, and there wasn't enough sci-fi gadgets/space exploring to really make me feel like this should be in the sci-fi genre. We have scanners and gene maps now, ok so their ships were floating and round, but still I'm torn. I enjoyed this book and felt like there were a lot of good parts and aspects that made it an enjoyable dystopian/alternate future novel. At the same time, it bothered me that this was called a feminist sci-fi book. Just because women are in charge does not make it a feminist book, and there wasn't enough sci-fi gadgets/space exploring to really make me feel like this should be in the sci-fi genre. We have scanners and gene maps now, ok so their ships were floating and round, but still we don't even get a good description to really wet the sci-fi wants. Ultimately love won, ultimately it was shown that it could be possible for men and women to coexist after the separating, but there weren't any feminist themes. Birana was weak, constantly shown as physically inferior to the men. It also bothered me that it highlighted a hetero-normative relationship above all else. This wouldn't be such an issue if there was more love shown between the women in the city or the men outside. But men were still seen as brutal and 'taking younger boys' and all good and pure love between the women themselves or the men were all off page or 'told as a story' to Laissa, and therefore glossed over. It was even the love Tulan (spelling? I listened on Audible) felt for Arvil that ultimately betrayed Birana and Arvil. Again, focusing on the hetero-normative. The love between Liassa and Zorene (again I apologize with spelling) was so fade to black, while there was an almost weirdly intense detailing between Arvil and Birana. Again while this isn't a bad book at all, I feel like expectations were placed on it by labeling it as feminist sci-fi, and ultimately it left me feeling unsatisfied.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bill Dauster

    The Shore of Women is a classic of feminist science fiction, imagining a post-apocalyptic world run by women, where men are relegated to a barbarian existence beyond the bounds of civilization. Women maintain their hegemony through technological superiority, a religion that venerates the Lady, and harsh enforcement of the dominant ideology. Then the female metropolis exiles two women to fend for themselves (and presumably die) in the hazard-filled land of men. Sargent tells the tale in alternati The Shore of Women is a classic of feminist science fiction, imagining a post-apocalyptic world run by women, where men are relegated to a barbarian existence beyond the bounds of civilization. Women maintain their hegemony through technological superiority, a religion that venerates the Lady, and harsh enforcement of the dominant ideology. Then the female metropolis exiles two women to fend for themselves (and presumably die) in the hazard-filled land of men. Sargent tells the tale in alternating voices of men and women, testing our preconceptions about gender roles as the protagonists encounter various permutations of relationships between the genders. Sargent also explores how characters deal with a faith that comes under question with discovery of greater understanding of how the world really works. The book provokes consideration of how men and women treat other, and why people cling to stereotypical gender roles. Some readers may be offended by explicit discussion of sexuality.

  14. 5 out of 5

    David Nix

    This novel left me very contemplative for some time after reading the final words. In a bold undertaking as a storyteller, Ms. Sargent tells of a distant future where war-weary women have exiled men to live as savages outside the walls of women-only futuristic cities, taking reproductive material only as needed to keep the species alive. The story follows an exiled woman, Birana, who forms what is considered an impossible and disgusting bond with a man named Arvil - one of love. The story is slow This novel left me very contemplative for some time after reading the final words. In a bold undertaking as a storyteller, Ms. Sargent tells of a distant future where war-weary women have exiled men to live as savages outside the walls of women-only futuristic cities, taking reproductive material only as needed to keep the species alive. The story follows an exiled woman, Birana, who forms what is considered an impossible and disgusting bond with a man named Arvil - one of love. The story is slow in places, but those moments reflect the monotony of life in the wild. *Spoiler* When sexual relations develop between Birana and Arvil, the author does not hold back. Her descriptions are graphic, although not gratuitous. In the end, though, the story gave me what I crave in every novel that I read: an abiding concern for the characters, and a truth to ponder that is larger than my limited world. Kudos to Pamela Sargent for such a bold story with such a profound message.

  15. 4 out of 5

    sweet pea

    it's apparent that i can't read enough post-apocalyptic literature. this novel is set in a world much like the (later) The Gate to Women's Country by Sheri S. Tepper. womyn and men live separately, with womyn (seemingly) in control. The Shore of Women is possibly the most intriguing battle of the sexes i have ever read. the first half shows womyn firmly in power with the men savage little puppets. the second half shows how tenuous women's control could be and how savage. ultimately, it's unclear it's apparent that i can't read enough post-apocalyptic literature. this novel is set in a world much like the (later) The Gate to Women's Country by Sheri S. Tepper. womyn and men live separately, with womyn (seemingly) in control. The Shore of Women is possibly the most intriguing battle of the sexes i have ever read. the first half shows womyn firmly in power with the men savage little puppets. the second half shows how tenuous women's control could be and how savage. ultimately, it's unclear who the winner is, or perhaps only when working together can humanity be victorious. the second part of the novel had me questioning if it could even be considered feminist. although, the questions the novel raises are intriguing enough to provoke debate. kind of wish i had a feminist science fiction book club. not that i need anything else to do.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dana Quadri

    At its core, this is great story telling. details are rich. nothing is cliche or expected. it's a love story without the typical turns or ends. quite frankly it's very real which is strange in a science fiction setting. but then.... then this book deals with so much more. not just feminism. but politics. government control with almost a 1984-esque feel. sexual identity and orientation. the stark contrast of nature and technology. the separation of men and women becomes more than a difference in At its core, this is great story telling. details are rich. nothing is cliche or expected. it's a love story without the typical turns or ends. quite frankly it's very real which is strange in a science fiction setting. but then.... then this book deals with so much more. not just feminism. but politics. government control with almost a 1984-esque feel. sexual identity and orientation. the stark contrast of nature and technology. the separation of men and women becomes more than a difference in gender but the societies become symbols of different points of time and societal development. lots and lots of interesting things on religion. it really makes you question how ancient cultures worshiped and why. this book is rich in discussion topics that really challenge our modern day norms.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kay Baird

    People in this world normally have only homosexual relationships, but the two main characters discover heterosexual love. Descriptions of their love-making are explicit and I enjoyed them but they didn't turn me on. Their struggle with the sex while finding their caring for each other ... was sweet as well as emotionally painful. No descriptions of single-sex love, except for passing references. One passing reference however did turn me on, when the male protagonist muses on the "sharper" joys o People in this world normally have only homosexual relationships, but the two main characters discover heterosexual love. Descriptions of their love-making are explicit and I enjoyed them but they didn't turn me on. Their struggle with the sex while finding their caring for each other ... was sweet as well as emotionally painful. No descriptions of single-sex love, except for passing references. One passing reference however did turn me on, when the male protagonist muses on the "sharper" joys of loving a man: it was that word "sharper" that turned me on.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    There was something really captivating about this story. It’s an adventure journey story and the main characters all go through their respective arc as the story progressives and we learn about this version of the future. A tad too long but it does provide some interesting reflections on gender bendy notions and constructs as well as power. Im surprised this hasn’t been turned into a dramatic series or film given the YA characters and journey. I would recommend reading this if you like your sci- There was something really captivating about this story. It’s an adventure journey story and the main characters all go through their respective arc as the story progressives and we learn about this version of the future. A tad too long but it does provide some interesting reflections on gender bendy notions and constructs as well as power. Im surprised this hasn’t been turned into a dramatic series or film given the YA characters and journey. I would recommend reading this if you like your sci-fi to touch on gender politics, however whether you agree with the politics or not is a different matter. At the end of the day it pushes a strong message of equality- that whether men are patriarchs or womyn are ruling the world and dominating over men, that it will be shitty ongoing cycles and equality might be the only way out, which is a message I really get behind.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    With the recent popularity of feminist dystopia, I thought this book warranted a re-read. I read it in high school, without a critical eye, but it made an impression. I never forgot the title, the author, the basic plot structure and premise, and I have found myself referencing it regularly over the years. In a word, this book is evocative! It posits questions about religion, nature v. nurture, essentialism, maleness and femaleness, cultural conditioning, oral history, brainwashing, love, violen With the recent popularity of feminist dystopia, I thought this book warranted a re-read. I read it in high school, without a critical eye, but it made an impression. I never forgot the title, the author, the basic plot structure and premise, and I have found myself referencing it regularly over the years. In a word, this book is evocative! It posits questions about religion, nature v. nurture, essentialism, maleness and femaleness, cultural conditioning, oral history, brainwashing, love, violence, rape culture, history, exploration, the list goes on and on. I'm especially impressed by the way the author manages to walk some fine lines so that we can't say for sure what are her answers to some of these questions. The main narrative leads to some conclusions, but there is a rebuttal nestled somewhere else in the story for nearly every one. It's not hard to pick on a couple plot holes, and it is a little dated now in its vocabulary and ideas. For example, same-sex love is a foundational feature of the world Sargent has built, but she overlooks the existence of trans people. It was worth the re-read though, as it stands up very well now, 34 years after its publication. It is impeccably structured, all of the plot pieces move smoothly and in unison, and its 588 pages never dragged.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Schneider

    I picked this up at a SF convention and kept at it for about 200 pages, since it's light enough reading and has an interesting premise. But oh goodness, I'm afraid I have to leave this novel back in the 1980s where it came from. I can take or leave the exploration of the premise -there's a lot of weird gender essentialism going on here that I don't think is going to get resolved by the end of the story, and then there's the lameness of a setting where all relationships are queer relationships, bu I picked this up at a SF convention and kept at it for about 200 pages, since it's light enough reading and has an interesting premise. But oh goodness, I'm afraid I have to leave this novel back in the 1980s where it came from. I can take or leave the exploration of the premise -there's a lot of weird gender essentialism going on here that I don't think is going to get resolved by the end of the story, and then there's the lameness of a setting where all relationships are queer relationships, but the spotlight is on the one "transgressive" straight couple - but whatever. Some of the worldbuilding is fun, in a campy way - a Logan's Run sort of aesthetic. However, I really quit because the characters are just not working for me. They are terribly flat, with wooden dialogue and experiences that are all surface, no depth. Obviously this is a Novel of Ideas, but the story moves too slowly for the characterizations to be so shallow. If nothing else, I suppose we can all be grateful for those well-meaning 70s and 80s feminists teaching us what not to do in our feminist SF (with some exceptions, of course!)

  21. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Dystopia, apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic and so on are not just overused terms in describing contemporary sci-fi/speculate fiction, they are almost always used incorrectly. Apocalypse does not mean the end of the world; it means the end of the world as we know it. 'Singularity' is the closest contemporary synonym. Dystopia is not just a bad world. Dystopia is the use of utopian elements to create undesirable outcome. You know Huxley's 'Brave New World.' You don't know his utopia 'Island.' The str Dystopia, apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic and so on are not just overused terms in describing contemporary sci-fi/speculate fiction, they are almost always used incorrectly. Apocalypse does not mean the end of the world; it means the end of the world as we know it. 'Singularity' is the closest contemporary synonym. Dystopia is not just a bad world. Dystopia is the use of utopian elements to create undesirable outcome. You know Huxley's 'Brave New World.' You don't know his utopia 'Island.' The structural elements of the utopia and dystopia are the same. Sargent has created a true dystopia in The Shore of Women. Gender segregation, as is sometimes necessary, as is sometimes desired as a mechanism of justice, is both in this story. It is also horrible. It is utopian and dysfunctional.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

    Interesting concept, and fairly well executed characters. I really enjoyed it, spent a lot of time thinking of the "what if" scenarios the book presented. The only, very small, problem I had was the central premise of the book that men and women live separately, is impossible to believe. Several time while reading I would think how this society is just not possible. However that is a very small nit, the book is well written and the story exciting and interesting, so I kept picking it up every fr Interesting concept, and fairly well executed characters. I really enjoyed it, spent a lot of time thinking of the "what if" scenarios the book presented. The only, very small, problem I had was the central premise of the book that men and women live separately, is impossible to believe. Several time while reading I would think how this society is just not possible. However that is a very small nit, the book is well written and the story exciting and interesting, so I kept picking it up every free minute to find out what happened next. I may even read this again, even though I have a huge TBR pile.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Damon

    Hate that it was labled as Feminist Fiction. This story made me think of a version the Adam And Eve story and of the movie The Blue Lagoon. I reads like fiction but is an essay on the animal instincts we have and how societal norms force us into non natural patterns.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? (from the opening line of the radio show The Shadow). In The Shore of Women, Pamela Sargent takes on the issue of the evil of men and a lot of evil there is. Along with this exploration, however, questions about the evilness of women emerge as well. The idea of men and women living separately has been explored many times before, from the legend of Sappho and Lesbos to, my favorite, Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Since men are violent, warring "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? (from the opening line of the radio show The Shadow). In The Shore of Women, Pamela Sargent takes on the issue of the evil of men and a lot of evil there is. Along with this exploration, however, questions about the evilness of women emerge as well. The idea of men and women living separately has been explored many times before, from the legend of Sappho and Lesbos to, my favorite, Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Since men are violent, warring, controlling, and subjugating of women, wouldn’t women be better off without them. Sargent’s dystopian novel was published in 1986 but is as current today, perhaps more so, that when it was published. After a world war wipes out civilization the few remaining humans survive in underground bunkers. They explore whether or not the world is safe to inhabit by sending out some men. It doesn’t take them long to decide that sending out all of the men will allow them to create a female utopia. Sargent’s book is built around the lives of three main characters; Laissa, Arvil, and Birana and the story is told through their eyes in alternating chapters. The maximum sentence the judiciary in the city of women can impose is to banish a woman out into the world of men. There they will quickly die of hunger or be killed by the savage men who roam the world in hunter/gatherer packs. The Shore of Women is the story of Birana’s expulsion, survival, and what she learns about the nature of men and women. There is little hard science in this book. The city is run by some type of Artificial Intelligence which allows the women to run all sorts of advanced devices and machines. The how and why of these inventions are not explored and not really necessary for the story line. Just know that women control the technology and men are savages living in a dystopian world. To control the men there is the all powerful goddess who the men must worship and adore. The question of the inner nature of women and men and relationships between them is the central theme of this book. It is also, however, an exciting story. We have intrigue, battles, love, sex, mystery, betrayal, friendship, and loss. The writing is excellent, the characters multidimensional, and the plot line engaging. I was hooked from the first pages.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rita

    I can't say this book is perfect, but I'm still going to give it 5 🌟. It's about a land, probably north America, centuries after the nuclear apocalypse. When the Earth seemed healed enough, the survivors made their way from the underground shelters and began to create civilization again. Women gathered together, separating themselves from men, in the belief that men could not be trusted with the reins of leadership again, lest their tendency towards violence destroy the world again. So women bui I can't say this book is perfect, but I'm still going to give it 5 🌟. It's about a land, probably north America, centuries after the nuclear apocalypse. When the Earth seemed healed enough, the survivors made their way from the underground shelters and began to create civilization again. Women gathered together, separating themselves from men, in the belief that men could not be trusted with the reins of leadership again, lest their tendency towards violence destroy the world again. So women built enclosed cities, leaving men to fight for survival in the wildernesses outside. They would variously be summoned to the walls to contribute their sperm, but were kept in ignorance of their purpose, believing the women to be aspects of the Goddess. Obviously, as other reviewers have pointed out, this is not really feminist literature, just because it has lesbians in it. Still, thoroughly enjoyable for characterization, world-building, and seeing men in the story get treated in some ways, the way they treat us.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Cari

    A thought-provoking dystopia where women and men live in different, separate societies that are not allowed to be in contact. Several ideas might be problematic to contemporary sensibilities. (This was written in the 80s). Regardless, it is the kind of story that lends itself to interesting discussions about gender equality and how society is always trying to find ways to define and control sexuality.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Amy!

    I think I read this as a young teen! I remember really liking it and also be really challenged by it!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cissa

    I was disappointed in this novel, at least as an engaging, "feminist" SF novel. It's clearly a product of its time (1986, about 30 years ago): but even then, gender essentialism was only a small part of feminist thought and theory. It's vital to the premises of this novel, though. Women and men have no actual contact with each other, and both have weird ideas of the Other. The women have claimed tech, and are stagnating in their walled citadels; meanwhile the men revel in life "nasty, brutish and I was disappointed in this novel, at least as an engaging, "feminist" SF novel. It's clearly a product of its time (1986, about 30 years ago): but even then, gender essentialism was only a small part of feminist thought and theory. It's vital to the premises of this novel, though. Women and men have no actual contact with each other, and both have weird ideas of the Other. The women have claimed tech, and are stagnating in their walled citadels; meanwhile the men revel in life "nasty, brutish and short" outside. While the overall story arc depicts a small personal rapproachment, in general everyone on all sides stays resolutely gender-essentialist. Now, this does mean that it might be an interesting book to teach in a feminist lit class, in which one would examine the premises- both of sex/gender, social status, etc.- in terms of a broader view of what humans are capable of. The book definitely raises some interesting questions, but it seems to me that they are mostly unaddressed, even in subtext. Another flaw is that it went on far too long, and was quite repetitive. This may have been intentional, but it made the reading more of a slog that it could have been. It did not help that none of the first-person protagonists were especially engaging, nor were most of the others. Our male protag flew into scary rages at the least hint of being thwarted; the females occasionally defied the powers that be, but then resigned themselves to oppression of one kind or another. Not a very hopeful look at humans, though possibly accurate... Not recommended, except maybe in a book discussion or class context.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas Whyte

    http://nhw.livejournal.com/953841.html[return][return]Classic feminist sf, or at least that is how it is usually labelled: women live in hi-tech urban enclaves, while men are consigned to a nasty, brutish, short life of scrabbling in the wilderness, worshipping the female principle, as punishment for having caused the (unspecified) world-wrecking disaster centuries ago.[return][return]It's not that different from Sherri S. Tepper's The Gate to Women's Country. Sargent's characters are more three http://nhw.livejournal.com/953841.html[return][return]Classic feminist sf, or at least that is how it is usually labelled: women live in hi-tech urban enclaves, while men are consigned to a nasty, brutish, short life of scrabbling in the wilderness, worshipping the female principle, as punishment for having caused the (unspecified) world-wrecking disaster centuries ago.[return][return]It's not that different from Sherri S. Tepper's The Gate to Women's Country. Sargent's characters are more three-dimensional, but her plot and setting rather less elaborate. I wondered where all the food for the women's cities was coming from; I also speculated a bit about the robustness of the command-and-control mechanism by which the women unleash deadly force on men when they get uppity.[return][return]The most extreme example of Sargent's rather inconsistent world-building is, oddly enough, in her erotic passages, where Hero gets it on with Heroine; they are raunchily written yet don't completely fit what we know of the environment - we are told that both of them have had same-sex physical relationships in the past, so the overtones of virginal discovery somehow aren't quite appropriate.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    TL;DR - I loved this book. If nothing else, it's a fantastic story. I'd recommend it to everyone and anyone to read. Not sure I really want to review, as I kind of want the book to speak for itself. Some of the closing paragraphs near the end: Those outside are our brothers. [...] They are our fathers and our sons. There is something of us in them and something of them in us. We are being given a chance to reach out to our other selves. What we do will show what we are and determine what we shall TL;DR - I loved this book. If nothing else, it's a fantastic story. I'd recommend it to everyone and anyone to read. Not sure I really want to review, as I kind of want the book to speak for itself. Some of the closing paragraphs near the end: Those outside are our brothers. [...] They are our fathers and our sons. There is something of us in them and something of them in us. We are being given a chance to reach out to our other selves. What we do will show what we are and determine what we shall become. Lastly, a quote from near the beginning: [...] her forceful ways and her constant questioning of our teachers began to disturb me. Birana questioned everything and argued with the answers she was given. Soon, I no longer sought her out, for I was afraid to admit that I had many of the same questions.

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