The Fresco

Sheri S. Tepper, Author Eos $24 (416p) ISBN 978-0-380-97879-3
HSo what do women really, really want? Elementary, Dr. Freud, according to Tepper's enchantingly sly feminist tale of Earthlings' first contact with alien starfarers: nothing that ""virile, arbitrary, egocentric, and often belligerent"" human males can supply. Abused wife to a feckless alcoholic, orphaned child of a wise Latina lady and her salvage-yard husband, Benita Alvarez-Shipton finds herself at 36 chosen by Chiddy and Vess, ambassadors from the galactic Pistach-Home, to introduce their message of peace to a largely skeptical, male-dominated U.S. government. Tepper intersperses episodes of Benita's struggle to help Chiddy and Vess with entries from the journal Chiddy keeps for her, an explanation of the Pistach moral-ethical religion centered upon a sacred fresco. To punctuate the many wrongs men in charge have committed, Tepper also inserts some headlines excruciatingly close to today's political scene: ""Baptists claim ETs possible demonic invasion; Falwell says ETs more likely gay."" Among other fitting punishments, the Pistach envoys see to it that rigid male right-to-life senators are impregnated by sentient wasps, whose larvae chew themselves out of righteous, unanesthetized senatorial bellies. As a clever roman clef and the stuff of secret female dreams, this novel succeeds brilliantly. Better yet, as a commentary on the capacity of women to endure, to achieve and to overcome, it shines as brightly as the stars that one day may provide what Tepper's women really wantDtrue peace. Tepper's novel will sell to wide range of SF readers, but special targeting to women, for instance in feminist bookstores, will increase sales. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/30/2000
Release date: 11/01/2000
Genre: Fiction
Mass Market Paperbound - 480 pages - 978-0-380-81658-3
Ebook - 480 pages - 978-0-06-197635-3
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