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Six Moon Dance by Sheri S. Tepper

Review by Janalei

This book is very strange and very complicated. There are so many parts to it that I am having a hard time picking out the relevant ones that are good to use in a review. I would like to start out by saying that if you are at all interested in reading something by Tepper, start with The Family Tree or Beauty instead. The Family Tree is the first thing I ever read by her, and I absolutely loved it. Since then I keep on reading more of her stuff in the hopes that something will match up to it, and so far Beauty is the only one that has even come close. Perhaps I should write a review of one of those books instead, from the sounds of it, eh? *l* I'm not going to, though, because it was too long ago that I read both of those, and I just read this one recently.

So here goes.

The majority of this book takes place on the planet of Newholme, settled by humans several centuries ago. Society has evolved in a very unusual way on this planet: due to some sort of genetic disease, half of the female babies born do not survive. This leads to a shortage of potential wives for the surplus of men, which gives much more societal power to women than we are used to seeing in just about any culture. Men who want to marry have to pay a great deal of money for a bride, and many men have no hopes of doing this. Those men who can afford a good wife become fairly respected Family Men, while those let fortunate often become sea men, supernumes (grunt workers) or Consorts. A Consort is basically a male courtesan: when a woman has put in her time as a wife and borne her husband a few children she is entitled to a Consort to provide her with pleasure, entertainment and companionship. It is almost unheard of for a husband and wife to actually enjoy each other's company: the one character in this book who is genuinely in love with his wife is happy, but looked down upon by his fellow Family Men.

Some scenes take place in other parts of the universe, including Old Earth. Humans have spread onto many planets. These planets are governed, after a fashion, by the Council of Worlds (COW). Long ago there was a leader named Haraldson, and all worlds populated by humans are expected to live by his Edicts. Those worlds that don't can be subject to sterilization. One of the Edicts states that humans cannot populate a world that already has a sentient race living on it. This may be a problem for Newholme, as when it was first settled there was no sign of previous inhabitants, but some time later certain beings made themselves known. The human residents of Newholme have been trained not to see these beings.

The main character is a young man named Mouche. His parents did not have the girl baby that they needed in order to stay financially stable, and they are forced to sell him to a Consort house. There are a myriad of other characters, all who would take much too long to list, although many are quite important. The only other one I will talk about is the Questioner. She is actually a machine of sorts, designed and made by men, but with human brains inside of her. Haraldson's Edicts have been programmed into her, and her purpose is to be a dispassionate judge, incapable of bias or corruption. She travels the universe visiting planets and making sure they comply with Haraldson's Edicts. If they do not, it is she who determines their fate. And surprise, surprise, she is due to visit Newholme, a visit which could prove disastrous for all of its human inhabitants.

Add to all this, the volcanoes on Newholme have been erupting frequently and viciously, which may lead to the destruction of the planet before the Questioner even has a chance to arrive at a verdict. This is related to the six moons that orbit the planet, which are due to come into conjunction, an event which happens only once every few centuries or millenia or so.

As I said, the plot is extremely complicated (there's waaaay more than I've said here). I've laid out some of the problems facing Newholme; the task facing Mouche and several of his companions is to save the world somehow. How this comes about, well.....let's just say the ending is very....very....strange. *l* The whole book is, really. I know that's not very informative, but well, I think that's the best I can do. The book was very gripping and I had a hard time putting it down, but at the end I couldn't decide if I really liked it or not. I guess I'll give it 3 amulets. I would recommend it if you've already read and enjoyed Tepper, but if not then don't read this one. Read The Family Tree instead!

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