April 13th, 2008

breaking bad

The Carhullan Army

I just finished The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall. It's in a recognisable tradition of feminist SF, I'm thinking 'Woman at the Edge of Time', 'Walk to the End of the World', 'The Handmaid's Tale'. It reflects and develops this line, rather than simply appending to it. It's well written. The end seems a bit rushed. It's set in England (Cumbria) about twenty or thirty years from now, after an environmental and political collapse. Most people are serfs, without rights, confined to the decaying towns, and women are forcibly fitted with coils. What is most noticeable about the society is that it doesn't work properly, even within the context of the environmental collapse. That is, the Authority doesn't give people allotments to grow veg, and set up wind farms. It just sits there being utterly incompetent.

A woman walks out of Penrith and disappears into the surrounding fells to live with a group of outlaw women living a self-sufficient lifestyle in an old farm, called Carhullan. In contrast to the Authority, these women are markedly competent. But the situation is complex.
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