This is a very dense, interesting book with a lot to say. I'm glad I read it. You can read this story on two levels (individually or both at the same time, it's up to you), so I'll talk about them seperately just for the purposes of this review.
1) The Plot/Story: If you're a fan of distopian stories, you should definitely read this. It's a fascinating look at our country after it suffers a political/religious upheaval and ecological disasters. The solutions to these problems sought by the protagonists don't follow either the glorification of technology or the rejection of it many distopian stories take. I find the rise of the theocracy based in Angel City super creepy and just way too believable for comfort. The pace drags in places and the story could have been tightened up a bit, my own cynicism made it pretty hard for me to find certain parts involving the extreme effectiveness of non-violent protests believable, but overall I found the book engaging and interesting.
2) The Message: If you're a Pagan of any kind, follower of an Earth-centered religion, follower of any kind of "spiritual but not religious" path, or are just interested in reading about any of those things, you should also read this book. I've read some of Starhawk's other non-fiction works and attended a talk she gave at my university (she's a very inspiring speaker!), so I could definitely see this book as her trying to show what a society that functions with the kinds of spiritual and political beliefs she promotes might look like. I myself don't agree with her entirely on either subject, but it's not really necessary to wholely believe in it in order to get something out of the book. Reading parts that I found a bit unbelievable (the afore mentioned usefulness of complete non-violence against zelots with guns for instance) or parts that I didn't feel would be really useful in real life (banishing people to live outside the community instead of prisons, for instance) just got me to think and clarify what I believed and what I might do instead. That's useful.
I have a few qualms with this book: The way certain characters push Starhawk's ideas in really contrived ways. How the discussion around tactics of violence in struggle are dismissed easily through manipulated plotlines and simplistic envisioning. How conversations between characters often feels fake and thin, further highlighted by the fact that in the large group conversations in the book that the central characters are generally the only ones speaking. Even the way that the story is glorified in a way that feels unrealistic.
With all that said, I still count this book among my favorites, and my mind constantly returns to certain parts of the story, though it has been several years since I last read it. While the way the characters interact in the story can at times feel a bit too ideal, I strongly connect to the parts of the story where the characters are broken and struggling. These moments, and indeed the whole book, begs the question of how we would be as individuals, how we would relate to each other in new ways, without the spectre of capitalism looming directly above. The book's idealism, though sometimes irritatingly polemic and shallow, is also one of it's strengths, and I am often drawn to the images in the book as a way of conceptualizing what could possibly be. There is a clear attempt at trying to relate to the reader that there are cracks and flaws in the utopia, and thus is how harmony is achieved.
It's hard to fully review this book, because my feelings are complicated. It presents a compelling world that provokes really deep questions about our desires and capabilities, while still giving us characters and plots that represent the pain and emptiness that is inherent in so many of our lives today. I find myself referencing this book so often, and I would recommend this intensely felt dystopian fantasy to anyone with the inclination.
This is a fabulous book on the state of the human race. Starhawk's idea of utopia (including communal living and polytheism) may not be for everyone, but the intention behind it speaks to all of us in one way or another.
When I first read this book, I didn't quite know what it was about. But as after a long read, this future that starhawk created. Has some things more closer to home. Also with the idea what the future would be like. What i didn't expect was that she had alot of spanish words in it. Making it more an eye opener aproach to getting the reader attention. Though she is wiccan (white witch), I find that with this book I learned more about my new found beliefs.
Starhawk's first work of fiction is magical and provocative. A futuristic tale, in the mood of Margaret Atwood. Margot Adler calls it "An extraordinary book that stands in the great tradition of political and philosophical novels."
I love this book! Despite its flaws (which range from a very romantic vision of polyamory to oversimplified solutions to giant problems) it's still a great story, with real characters and a very real sense of magic. I've probably read it three times in five years, and will most certainly read it again someday. Great feminist/environmentalist utopia/dystopia. Wish there were more stories like this out there.
This book is AMAZING!! Starhawk (who also writes books on paganism and eco-feminism) weaves a beautiful tale of two cities really. I was enthralled by Starhawks depiction of her eco-fem community and loved the idea of such communal support. If you have not read this book it will change the way you view society. READ IT NOW!