Mission Child

Author: 
Maureen F. Mc Hugh
Blurb: 
Janna's world was colonized long ago by Earth and then left on its own for centuries. When "offworlders" return, their superior technology upsets the balance of a developing civilization. Mission Child follows the journeys of Janna after she and her young partner escape marauders who attack their hometown. The girl, fast becoming mature beyond her years, sets off across the planet on an odyssey of adventure, poverty, hard work, war, famine, and rebirth. Janna uses her meager skills to eke out a living in a changing world; she gains and loses a husband, a child, friends, jobs, and more. McHugh weaves together anthropology, sociology, psychology, and gender relations in this wondrous journey. Janna assumes the guise of a boy for protection, but eventually becomes "Jan" to herself as well as others. Reminiscent of Ursula K. Le Guin's insightful works set in the Hainish universe, Mission Child will doubtless be nominated for a Tiptree Award for its exploration of Janna's gender identity.
A child curled up in the snow on an icy background, seen from above; she is small against the land
Representation
Some information on the characters in the book.
Female protagonist: 
No
Protagonist of Colour: 
Yes
Queer relationship: 
Yes
LBGT protagonist: 
Trans
Disabled protagonist: 
No
Publication
Some basic information about when and where the book was published.
Publishing date: 
1999
ISBN: 
1857238613
Publisher: 
Orbit
Comments

Comments

The main character of this book explicitly does not identity as a woman: "I am some part man, some part woman, I think".

I considered editing the pronouns out of the blurb to make that clear, but the story is very much about life in a world unwilling to get other peoples' pronouns right: I think leaving that description as it stands is a fair summary of the book. It's a book very much about colonialism and poverty and substance abuse, about violence and bad relationships and a lot of misery and suffering. There's a lot of sexual violence, mostly off-screen but still present.

This isn't really the book I expected from the blurb, but I found it a subtle, interesting read none-the-less. Jan's perspective was refreshing: this is a hard sci-fi world seen through the eyes of someone with little knowledge and even less interest in the technologies that make it possible. I'm glad she did it, but even if I'm not sure I'd pick the book up again any time soon.

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