Author: Geoff Ryman
Details: (c) 1985 Geoff Ryman; Pub Bantam Books 1987; ISBN 0-553-26344-7
Verdict: Um, woah. Or perhaps: I can't sum up The warrior who carried life in one sentence.
Reasons for reading it: It's just about the right length for a return train journey to Edinburgh.
How it came into my hands: Birthday present from rysmiel.
The warrior who carried life is somewhat like absolutely typical fantasy: an apparently ordinary young woman turns out to have amazing powers of sorcery and sets off on a quest to save the world, fights monsters, finds love and the McGuffin and so on. But it's also somewhat unlike typical fantasy. It's not that it does anything I can put my finger on that breaks the conventions of the genre, but it's original in ways I'm finding hard to define.
I think tWwCL is almost into imaginary mythology territory. I had a very strong sense I was reading a parable or something that was making a point; one of the blurbs describes it as a 'fable', and for once I think the blurb got it right. But if there is meant to be a Message I'm not at all sure what it is. Regardless, the pshat makes a good story, which is the main thing I require of a book. TWwCL is doing interesting things with gender, and seriously weird stuff with theology; I think it has something of a take on suffering and good and evil, except I'm not entirely sure I understand its position.
The background is quite odd. A large part of the plot is pretty explicitly based on the Christian story of the Fall, but there's a whole load of religious elements which are not any Christianity I know. I'm not sure if these are completely made up fantasy religion, or if they're from some other religion(s) I know nothing about blended in with Christianity, of in fact if the other bits are from the really esoteric side of Christianity and I'm just not recognizing them as such. Some of it sounds vaguely Eastern, stuff about words having double meanings and things containing their opposite, but nothing I know well enough to recognize. My theory is that the setting is meant to be the far future, where people have a distant memory of the Christian mythos but as an ancient, possibly prehistoric religion rather than a current one. Likewise the culture and political setup; it's not quite the standard faux-Mediaeval not-quite Europe of this sort of genre, but for most practical purposes it's not that different. There are some big mountains in it which felt more Himalayas than Alps, but that's a wild guess.
The other thing that's unusual about tWwCL is that the language is very matter-of-fact and almost flat. There's nothing of the high-blown prose and emphasis on emotion that I would normally expect from the genre, but it is extremely effective. I felt very much engaged with the characters and the emotional as well as plot-based drama, but the prose is the complete opposite of manipulative in that respect. Also, there's a very touching love story running through the plot, which completely avoids the True Love cliches or really even saying anything about how amazing and passionate the relationship is. It just presents the characters interacting and leaves the reader to form their own impressions.
I think darcydodo would get on with tWwCL. Also, rysmiel, do you think this might be the book to convince misia there might be something to fantasy?