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Nekropolisby Maureen F Mchugh
Synopses & Reviews
An extraordinary literary artist offers a powerful vision of tomorrow in a world barely touched by the passing centuries.
There is life in the Nekropolis — but no future. Hariba spent her youth here, among the exquisite paper flower wreaths her mother meticulously constructed, playing contentedly with other children around the rows and rows of old buildings housing the crumbling bones of the dead. But when an older brother's criminal indiscretion robbed Hariba of any possibility of a husband, she agreed to have herself "jessed" — submitting to the technoblological process designed to render her docile and subservient to whomever has purchased her service. In this way, Hariba could escape the confinement of her surroundings and hopelessness of her fate...though she could never again be truly free.
At the age of twenty-six, she enters the house of a wealthy merchant as an indentured servant. It is a new world for Hariba, filled with many wondrous objects and strange amusements that she has never before seen. But there is one thing in this place that greatly disturbs her: a harni, an intelligent, machine-bred creature of flesh and organs, a perfect replica of a man. A menial, like herself, it calls itself "Akhmim." And it unsettles Hariba with its beauty, its naïve, inappropriate tenderness — and with prying, unanswerable questions like "Why are you sad?"
But slowly, almost imperceptibly, Hariba's revulsion metamorphoses into acceptance, and then into something much more. For Akhmim, like her, is a nonentity at the very bottom of the social order — and the harni's gentle concern for her is real. And if she shuts out the accusing voices in her head, Hariba can even forget that Akhmim is less than human.
Dangerous thoughts, however, must inevitably lead to dangerous actions — and outlaw emotions can breed an unholy love defying the strictly enforced edicts of God and man. Soon feelings Hariba can neither control nor ignore have her contemplating the unthinkable — escape. But the "jessed" abandon their masters at the risk of sickness, pain, imprisonment, and perhaps even death. And there is no safe haven for a rebel servant and a runaway A.I. — not even within the shunned, technology-barren bowels of the city of the dead.
Hugo Award winner Maureen F. McHugh has written a provocative, powerfully dazzling novel of repression and reawakening — and a unique, profoundly moving love storythat stands alongside the acclaimed works of Ursula K. Le Guin and Margaret Atwood.
"In Nekropolis, Maureen F. McHugh transforms what initially seems like an SFnal version of that old dramatic standby, star-crossed lovers from different 'clans,' into a rich, multi-faceted portrait of a future society with roots deep in the past." Faren Miller, Locus
"On the surface, Nekropolis is a love story, one with dangerous undercurrents, however, that make it more than a romance....Well written in simple, emotionally engaging prose, this is no mere love story but a consideration of the conflicts between old rules and new technology and between attitudes of freedom and slavery. Despite the strangeness of Hariba's world, it is easy to identify with the humanity of its denizens and be engaged by their struggles to survive." Regina Schroeder, Booklist
'A literary novel in sci-fi clothing." Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Profoundly poignant." New York Times Book Review
"Superb...very believable...It is almost a disservice to call this book 'science fiction.' Call it 'speculative fiction' instead...Rich in the details of everyday life...[this] bittersweet novel beautifully captures the hard choices and compromises the poor must endure." Dallas Morning News
Fleeing an empty future in the Nekropolis, twenty-one-year-old Hariba has agreed to have herself "jessed," the technobiological process that will render her subservient to whomever has purchased her service. Indentured in the house of a wealthy merchant, she encounters many wondrous things. Yet nothing there is as remarkable and disturbing to her as the harni, Akhmim. A perfect replica of a man, this intelligent, machine-bred creature unsettles Hariba with its beauty, its naive, inappropriate tenderness . . . and with prying, unanswerable questions, like "Why are you sad?" And slowly, revulsion metamorphoses into acceptance, and then into something much more. But these outlaw emotions defy the strict edicts of God and Man — feelings that must never be explored, since no master would tolerate them. And the "jessed" defy their master's will at the risk of sickness, pain, imprisonment . . . and death.
Life exists in the Nekropolis — but it is a life with no future. To escape, Hariba agrees to be "jessed, " a technobiological process that enhances natural loyalties. At 26, she enters a wealthy household as an indentured servant, free, she believes, of the Nekropolis. Akhmim, a beautiful, charming harni, an intelligent, machine-bred creature, also enters Hariba's new household. Occupying the lowest stratum of society, harni are despised — and feared — by their "superiors" for their cool detachment. And though he is considered less than human, Akhmim asks Hariba troubling questions she cannot answer, questions that cut to her soul.
Hugo Award-winning author Maureen F. McHugh has imagined a breathtaking story of humanity and individuality, creating a society in which two misfits defy rigid conventions as they dare to do the impossible . . . fall in love.
About the Author
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.
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