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Monday, August 16, 2004

Book review: Mission Child, by Maureen F. McHugh

A colonized world develops a unique identity and culture. Years later, one of its citizens develops a unique identity as well, adapting to her culture by taking on the identity of a man. Soon, she finds that her gender-blurring actually appeals to her in ways beyond what her situation demands of her.

I love Mission Child as much as McHugh’s more popular novel China Mountain Zhang, which received the James Tiptree, Jr. Memorial Award, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Locus Award for Best First Novel.

McHugh is a great writer who can involve readers in any scene, regardless of how much or how little action that scene contains. The language seems descriptive to an extreme, but she still manages to tie those descriptions into the thoughts and feelings of the characters.

Before reading her work, I read reviews that included complaints about her supposedly not focusing on plot. Readers can find countless formulaic, plot-driven science fiction and fantasy novels, but they won’t find many original and evocative writers of McHugh’s caliber.

McHugh’s other novels include Nekropolis and Half the Day Is Night.