OR: Mission Child

A review that originally appeared in The Third Alternative #23:-

MISSION CHILD

Maureen McHugh

Orbit pb, 385pp, £6.99

McHugh’s latest novel is set in a universe where, after centuries of isolation, a technologically backward colony world is once again in contact with Earth. It is the story of Janna, the child of the title, raised in a Mission, part school and part trading post. When the people of the Mission are slaughtered Janna sets out on a journey that will take her to the very heart of her world and back out again to its remotest places, that will see her bear a child, masquerade as a man, work with offworlders, befriend a shaman and fall in love with a dealer in black market technology.

This is a novel with a rich and varied cultural backdrop and a convincing science fictional setting. However while such things can be appreciated for their own worth they aren’t the be all and end all of the story, simply a stage on which Janna acts out her search for a place where she belongs, an identity that is true to her own nature rather than a response to the expectations of others. As with McHugh’s debut novel China Mountain Zhang the personal dominates, but this is a richer, more complex book, one in which the SFnal elements are an essential part of the structure, a beautifully written and compelling slice of fiction. Recommended.

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