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Fish Tails, by Sheri Tepper.

August 31, 2014

 Fish Tails, by Sheri Tepper.  Harper Voyager (2014), 720 pages.

A lengthy fantasy set in the distant future as Earth is threatened by total flooding.

Sheri Tepper is the author of many  fantasies that I have enjoyed over the years. In her new book, she shows her continuing creativity.   She may, however, have attempted too much this time.

A thousand years after the Big Kill exterminated most dwellers on Earth, a new threat looms. The entire planet is going to be flooded. A few people figure out how to give birth to babies who can live and breathe both air and water thus ensuring that the human race will continue.   A couple sets out with their twin babies who have gills as well as fins and whose legs can be joined to serve as a tail. Their goal is to visit villages showing their infants and introducing villagers to what they will need to do to insure their own children can survive in the future. This is a dangerous task because some people oppose any alteration to the human body, even ear piercing or the loss of a limb, as against God’s will. As the couple journeys, they encounter various responses, some of them life-threatening. They interact with mythical beasts such as griffins, designed by some of survivors of the Big Kill. Their protection includes technologies which appear magical to the uninitiated.

The couple and many of the other characters in the book have complicated back stories. I assume that Tepper has brought together individuals whose stories she has explored in her previous novels. While I have read many of her books, these are not familiar to me. I think the book would be most enjoyed by those who have read all her writings and can appreciate her ability to bring her characters together into one narrative.

At times, Tepper gets carried away with stating what she views as good and bad. While I am sympathetic to many of her values, I found their advocacy often interfered with the narrative. I was also uncomfortable with her division of human beings into those who thought and sought evidence and those who didn’t. Her depiction of village people who were ignorant and violent toward women got boring after a while.

Yet Tepper is still a good storyteller. I recommend this book especially to those who have enjoyed for her earlier books.

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