Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Book Review: Nancy Jane Moore's Walking Contradiction

It's time for another embarrassingly late review, this time for LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Nancy Jane Moore's Walking Contradiction and Other Futures (Book View Cafe, 2014) is an entertaining collection of science fiction stories -- well outside the normal purview of my LibraryThing collection, but well worth reading. The common thread between these eight stories is the question of what it means to be human; in most cases here, that question centers on what role gender plays in identity. That question is front and center in the title story and in "Nohow Permanent," as both stories' narrators are "ambi" (or, as the latter narrator puts it, "mostly" female). "Walking Contradiction" itself is skillfully told, full of intrigue and estranged regret; if it's over-exposited at times, that's made forgivable by the narrator's film-noir profession and tone. Here and elsewhere, there are moments when Moore starts to sound like Robert Heinlein, whether in references to the "troubled" years or in sentences like "All the people -- and not people, and not quite people -- made Vlad nervous" (113), reminiscent of gender-bending stories like Heinlein's "All You Zombies." The stories "Borders," "Gambit," and "In Demeter's Gardens" are a little less memorable, all featuring female protagonists in (relatively) near-future military scenarios, but told capably. "Blindsided by Venus in the House of Mars" is a tragic love story that weaves a nice twist into interstellar travel; if it challenges gender assumptions, it's only because of assumptions the reader may bring to the text. "Or We Will All Hang Separately" completes the collection, with a post-apocalyptic tone that still manages to remain more hopeful than some of the other stories included here. Altogether, Moore's talent shines frequently in this book. I'll be sure to keep an eye out for more of her work.

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