Book Review of Commitment Hour

Commitment Hour
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Helpful Score: 1


Quite an oddly interesting read. The bizarre nature of the novel's subject matter, a village whose inhabitants switch sexes every year until the age of 20, is what initially piqued my interest. This is not to say that I've ever had the urge to alter my own sex mind you, but rather I was curious to see how the author would pull off such a feat.

How weird would it be to change your sex on a yearly basis. Seriously, think about that for a second. To wake up one morning and find your body completely altered? To have vague recollections of your past year living as a man, but now finding yourself in a woman's body, feeling a woman's thoughts and desires. This is what the natives of Tober Cove deal with every year until the age of 20, when they finally need to make a choice as to which sex they would like to live out their remaining years as; male, female, or hermaphrodite (or as the locals call it, "Neut"). In order to ensure that each inhabitant has experienced every possible aspect of each sex prior to their "Commitment Day", the day they choose their final sex, each citizen is impregnated in their late teen years so that they can even experience the child birthing process. Yep, you read that correctly, and oddly enough, it makes sense considering the circumstances.

To make this tale even a bit more odd is the fact that the locals of neighboring cities and villages do not experience this same sex shifting phenomenon. What exactly is going on in Tober Cove? A well renowned scientist travels to the village to answer this very question, and thus all hell breaks loose as he begins unraveling the mystery.

In addition to the inquisitive scientist, the story focuses on the discrimination towards those who chose to become hermaphrodites ("Neuts") as well as the twisted story of two locals that are facing their "Commitment Day." They also happen to be lovers with two children of their own, which of course adds some additional intrigue. What happens if they both choose to commit as the same sex?? Yes my friends, drama ensues.

In my earlier days I used to devour Science Fiction novels at a rather rapid pace, but nowadays my tastes have typically shifted away from this genre. That being said, I did find this novel to be oddly entertaining and I'm glad I decided to crack it open. While the story did seem to drag on at times (the entire novel takes place over the course of one day) I think James Alan Garner did an admirable job of portraying the world through the eyes of characters who are faced with a very different type of lifestyle. The added mystery surrounding why the annual sex shifting occurs in the first place also helped keep me interested until the book's final pages. This definitely won't be everyone's cup of tea, but if you go into it with an open mind you may just enjoy it.