Biting the Sun
This book is set in a far-off future, where Earth is an immense desert and people all live in domed cities. With their entire civilization run by robots, the people of the cities devote themselves to pleasure. Anything is possible, for there are no consequences: no poverty, no disease–not even death, for the robots can extract someone’s mind and put it into a new body. The heroine of the novel is a Jang, their equivalent of a teenager, who becomes dissatisfied with her life of mindless pleasure. The novel follows her as she slowly tries to find some sort of meaning for life.
The writing in this novel is quite good: Tanith Lee effectively paints a lush, exotic picture of her world. The characterization is also excellent; it takes the heroine quite a while simply to realize that something is wrong, and much longer still to realize what the problem is. By the end of the novel, she has achieved a complete paradigm shift that feels completely earned.
I would definitely rate this book as “adults only.” There’s a lot of sex, and while it’s not explicit, some people might find it quite disturbing. For instance, at the beginning of the novel, the protagonist (who is never actually named) sleeps with a male character; later on, she has become a male and sleeps with him after he has become a woman. However, I don’t find it offensive because the novel explicitly states that this promiscuous, gender-hopping lifestyle is dehumanizing.
There are a few problematic elements such as a brief, semi-positive mention of what seems to be a homosexual relationship. Nevertheless, Tanith Lee is right on some very important issues. In fact, the book seems to be surprisingly pro-life: a child that dies moments after conception is considered a child by all the characters. Overall, I think it’s worth reading and definitely not harmful to someone who can deal with the subject matter.
(Note: this book combines the two novels Don’t Bite the Sun and Drinking Sapphire Wine.)