14 May 2013
“At the final moment, Doctors saved humanity by discovering how to create human life without the animalistic and outdated method of sexual reproduction. The Doctors chose three hundred specimens of exquisite womanhood to be the templates for all future generations to come. And thus Society was born, and in this great nation called Society we have three hundred Jeepie Types.”
From Swans & Klons by Nora Olsen
When I was wandering around NetGalley looking for something to read I stumbled upon this book. I was excited to see a book with lesbian characters. I have only read one other that is in a more science fiction setting. I looked forward to reading the book, and I think I read it in only a couple of days.
In a future, all female world there are two races of women, the Panna’s and the Klons. The Klons are genetically modified (from the Pannas), non-human, who are stronger physically but with lower mental abilities; they are the working class serving the Pannas. In this world, sixteen-year old Rubric and her girlfriend Salmon Jo live pampered lives in the Academy dormitories. Upon starting to work outside the dormitories they stumble across a secret that tears their world apart, and makes them question everything. Now they must flee for their lives.
Honestly, I am a month or so out from having read this, and I am having trouble remembering most of it. There was just so little in this book that made an impression on me. My overall feeling on it was that it was ok, but is just never surprised me, or really touched me in any way.
The world Olsen creates is interesting, but never really unique. It reminds me of some very old science fiction stories and movies. The Panna’s are very pampered and sheltered, and that causes the story to feel a little like a boarding school story. The Pannas from Society understand that there are women who live outside the fences of Society, but they are seen as crazy and base (they still give birth naturally, which is seen as extremely disgusting to the Pannas). The world outside of Society was the most interesting to me, and I wish we could have spent a little more time there.
There are some new words, the most prominent being schatzie, or girlfriend/lover. They are a little jarring at first, but you get used to it. The one that takes longer to figure out is “cretinous male” which was what the males turned into and that started the beginning of the Society. From my understanding, the cretinous males are significantly less intelligent, hairy, shorter, almost Neanderthal like men (so the males have de-evolved basically). There are still some cretinous males living with the women outside of Society.
As for the main characters, I never really connected to Rubric Anne or Salmon Jo. I think it is interesting that all Pannas have a noun and name combo, but I could never decide if the “L” was pronounced in Salmon Jo’s name or not. Rubric was an artist and a rebel, but never really seemed to have a burning conviction in her. Salmon Jo, with her love of science, was easier for me to relate to, but as we only see her through Rubric’s eyes, she is still a bit of a mystery.
It was interesting to consider the questions raised by the Jeepie Type, which is short for Genotype Phenotype. From my high school biology understanding: Genotype is the hereditary information (so the basic genes) and Phenotype is how the genes present. So the Jeepie Types are the 300 different sets of DNA that the Pannas and Klons are created from, sort of like the 300 basic human models. Each Jeepie Type is known for certain traits, behaviors, and interests. Rubric’s Jeepie Type tend to be artists, and Salmon Jo’s type are good at science and can even become doctors (the leaders of Society), but some go “crazy” and have to be fixed. There is a ceremony at 16 where each Panna is paired with an older woman of her Jeepie Types as a sort of mentor. The book is constantly referencing which type everyone is. It makes you question how much of a person’s self is genetic, environmental, or free will. It was interesting to see Olsen’s take on this.
The overall problem that they discover was not hard to guess. In fact, I knew what the problem would be just from the summary so I was not surprised. It was hard to feel the same pressure that the characters do, since it was such an obvious thing. I’m sure that if you think about what secret it could be, you could guess it right now, too! There was a little action towards the end that helped pick up the pace of the book but it feels a bit too late, and a bit too brief.
Final Verdict: An ok novel that doesn’t disappoint, but doesn’t provide a thrill either.