cover image Mission Child

Mission Child

Maureen F. McHugh. Eos, $20 (385pp) ISBN 978-0-380-97456-6

Issues of gender and humanity infuse this beautifully written saga of a woman's journey of self-recovery. On a distant world, in the far northern reaches, the Hamra clan village is an ""appropriate technology"" settlement, where the descendants of a long-ago Earth colony live peacefully--until the village is attacked by the marauding Teske clan. The only survivors, teenager Janna and her boyfriend, Aslak, flee across the icy plains, wandering from village to village. Janna becomes pregnant and gives birth to a daughter, who soon dies, as does Aslak. Alone, ""Jan of no clan"" makes her way to a refugee camp, where, emaciated, she is taken for a boy, a guise she adopts at first for protection, and later because it feels right. Afraid of being found out, Jan moves on to the city of Taufzin, where her ability to speak English attracts a job working for offworlders. Busy, grim, impersonal Taufzin is the opposite of peaceful Hamra; isolated and lonely, Jan falls in love with a criminal, to whom she reveals the secret of her gender. A tragedy ultimately sends Jan to yet another part of the planet, the hot Southern islands; there, though still a foreigner in every way, Jan finds her place in the world. Fans of Ursula Le Guin will find much to admire in McHugh's (China Mountain Zhang; Half the Day Is Night) intelligent, carefully wrought novel of a world that is familiar yet very alien. (Nov.)