Gibbon's Decline and Fall

Sheri S. Tepper

Bantam Spectra. $22.95
(paper $6.99)

2000 AD. Bag ladies are rioting. Militant misogynist groups stalk the streets. A subversive organization called the Alliance is poised for world domination. Suicides are up, but there is also a curious decrease in violence and aggression. Against this backdrop, Carolyn and some old college friends search for their absent friend Sophy, who died a few years earlier and yet seems to have never quite left; and who, surprisingly, may know the secret behind the world's peculiar millennial throes.

Sheri Tepper, one of science fiction's leading female writers, once again tackles the ills and injustices the human race does to itself. Gibbon's Decline and Fall is better than her previous Gate to Women's Country, but not quite as good as the excellent Raising the Stones, two earlier novels with similar themes.

One of the best parts of Decline and Fall is the brilliant and chilling dream sequence, where the individual nightmares scattered throughout the book turn out to be not just the same dream, but one dream only. The opening scene of Carolyn's near "Crespinization" is also very amusing. Less successful is the climax, although well planned from the start with clues both subtle and not-so; but the unexpected origins of the villainous Webster are somehow disappointing, and the appearance of the Goddess reeks of deus ex machina. And despite what should be strong characterization, halfway through the book Carolyn's friends (particularly Jessamine and Ophelia) still blur together like a logic puzzle about who ate what and sat where at a dinner party.

Weaknesses aside, any Sheri Tepper book is worthwhile, and Gibbon's Decline and Fall maintain's her high and entertaining standard.


A shorter version of this review originally appeared in the January 12, 1997 edition of The Roanoke Times.


This review copyright 1997 by Wendy Morris

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