One advantage of working in a genre is that things have to happen, you must create a moving plot, and that discipline keeps Russ' springy intelligence at least somewhat anchored. If she is like any other writer, she makes me think sometimes of Swift. She is as angry, as disgusted, as playful, as often didactic, as airy at times and as crude, as intellectual. The quality of outraged, clear-sighted, pained intelligence, at once incandescent and exacerbated, is one of the major experiences for me in reading her work. Her critical essays tend to be witty and savage. Boredom is a torture to which the world obviously condemns her a lot.
Her first novel and still her easiest to approach is Picnic on Paradise….
Her protagonist Alyx is a Greek thief who was in the process of being executed in Tyre some centuries B.C. when she was accidentally picked up by an archeological survey operating far underwater from a future society. She is being used to shepherd a party of tourists across a resort world that is involved in a commercial war….
[Picnic on Paradise] is about underdevelopment versus overdevelopment, or the colonized vs. the folks in the center of the empire. Alyx is a fully realized character, tough, emotional, irritable, likeable. (p. 37)
And Chaos Died is the most benign of her novels. Her protagonists are always lonely and alienated. Now what does the isolated intelligence dream of? What do women really want, as Freud asked, and never stayed for an answer. The prevailing fantasy of And Chaos Died is a society in which upon reaching puberty, you become a telepath. Communication and community! When the minds can move mountains, nobody really works and machines are obsolete. Making love really works. The drama is partially the...
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