Maureen F. McHugh is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Mission Child, China Mountain Zhang -- which was a New York Times Notable Book, nominated for both a Hugo and a Nebula Award, and winner of the Locus Readers' Poll for Best First Novel, a James Tiptree Award, and a Lambda Award -- and Half the Day is Night. She received the Hugo for her short story "The Lincoln Train," and other stories have appeared in several publications and anthologies, including in the highly regarded collection Starlight 1. Ms. McHugh lives in Ohio with her husband and stepson.
In this exquisite if melancholy novel, McHugh (Mission Child) evokes a repressive, intensely sexist 22nd century Morocco that is largely cut off from the rest of the world by the dictates of the Second Koran. Hariba, a young servant woman, has grown up in the Nekropolis, an ancient burial ground that also serves as home to the city of Fez's teeming poor. Unsuccessful in love, she chooses to be "jessed," undergoing a medical procedure designed to turn her into the perfect servant, one who is psychologically incapable of being disloyal to her employer. Unfortunately, however, Hariba soon runs afoul of her employer's wife, a restless shrew of a woman who devotes most of her time to bismek, a convoluted form of participatory virtual-reality soap opera. Worse still, Hariba, who's terribly lonely, falls in love with Akhmim, a harni or artificial person, who looks human, but isn't. Akhmim "impresses" on Hariba, returning her feelings as best he can. Indentured to another employer, she misses Akhmim terribly and eventually runs away with him. Alternating between four narrators Hariba, Akhmim, Hariba's mother and Hariba's best friend, Ayesha McHugh centers her novel on a well-realized set of sympathetic, but imperfect characters. Each speaks with a distinct voice, describing a complex and not entirely healthy web of friendships and familial relationships. McHugh's Morocco, with its intensely symbolic Nekropolis, is very real, but ultimately it is Hariba, Akhmim and their heartbreaking, impossible relationship that the reader will remember. Agent, Sandra Dijkstra. (Aug. 30) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
As a "jessed" or bonded servant, Hariba possesses a chemically induced sense of loyalty to her master until her growing affection for an artificial construct drives her to an act of desperation and changes her life forever. The author of Mission Child excels in using exotic settings as backdrops for stories of self-discovery and personal courage. This luminous tale of forbidden love in a near-future Morocco explores the evolution of human nature in a world where technology has redefined the meaning of the word human. This example of speculative fiction at its best belongs in most libraries. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.