Suzy McKee Charnas is the author of over a dozen works of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, including the Holdfast series from Tor Books and the Sorcery Hall series of books for young adults. She is the winner of the Hugo Award (for her short story Boobs) and has won the James Tiptree, Jr. Award twice, once retrospectively for the first two Holdfast books and then for The Conqueror's Child, final volume of the Holdfast series. Her recent books include My Father's Ghost, a narrative nonfiction work about her father's old age. She adapted her novel, The Vampire Tapestry, for the stage in the late 1990s. She was born and brought up in New York City, the setting for the Sorcery Hall books, and she currently lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
When Charnass dystopian novel Walk to the End of the World appeared in 1974, followed by similar work by Joanna Russ, Marge Piercy and Alice Sheldon, SF found itself in the middle of an angry feminist revolution. Charnas continued her exploration of the world of the Holdfast and the Riding Women in Motherlines (1978) and The Furies. Now she brings her classic series to a conclusion in the tale of Sorrel, daughter of Alldera, the woman who in the earlier novels escaped slavery, then raised a female army to return and destroy the misogynistic evil of her homeland. Sorrel has grown up strong among the Riding Women, but is embittered by her mothers abandonment. Traveling across the mountains with her adopted son, she discovers that the women of the Holdfast have largely mirrored the evil theyd previously fled, holding their men as slaves, using them for procreation and as beasts of burden. Some want to change this, Alldera among them, but the prospects for reform are endangered by the return of a charismatic, unscrupulous man known as the Sunbear, who may be Sorrels father via his long-ago rape of Alldera. Avoiding clichs and easy answers, Charnas brings this powerful series to a fitting end. There is much of the darkness and pain found in the previous books, but there is also hope as it becomes clear that, within limits, some of the women and men are ready to at least think about living together in peace. The year is less than half over, but this potent, thoughtful novel by a talented writer at the top of her form clearly counts as one of the best SF novels of 1999. (June)