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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is extraordinarily thought provoking
I have read at least eight of Sheri S. Tepper's books and although the earlier ones that I have read are good, especially 'The Gate to Women's Country' this one surpasses them all. I could not stop reading this. It is deep, powerful and left me exhausted but wanting more. Although obviously fiction - it must be read with an open mind - the book makes sense of so much...
Published on 3 July 1999

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, Evil, Men, Women - the Eternal Battle
Is there really some force that drives men to mistreat and abuse women? Is such behavior inherent in the biological makeup of humans? Can it be modified via chemical means or by changing some small portion of the human DNA structure? Or, perhaps, is this a cultural, learned trait that can be eradicated with proper education and training? What influence does organized...
Published on 23 Jun 2004 by Patrick Shepherd


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is extraordinarily thought provoking, 3 July 1999
By A Customer
I have read at least eight of Sheri S. Tepper's books and although the earlier ones that I have read are good, especially 'The Gate to Women's Country' this one surpasses them all. I could not stop reading this. It is deep, powerful and left me exhausted but wanting more. Although obviously fiction - it must be read with an open mind - the book makes sense of so much that is actually real. It seems to encompass most of humanity's characteristics within the few characters in the story. The ending is a subtle cliffhanger, with just enough of the loose ends tied up. I realise I have not given the story line - it is too complex for me to describe - in fact I do not feel my comments give this book justice - so read it yourself and decide.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, Evil, Men, Women - the Eternal Battle, 23 Jun 2004
By 
Patrick Shepherd "hyperpat" (San Jose, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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Is there really some force that drives men to mistreat and abuse women? Is such behavior inherent in the biological makeup of humans? Can it be modified via chemical means or by changing some small portion of the human DNA structure? Or, perhaps, is this a cultural, learned trait that can be eradicated with proper education and training? What influence does organized religion have on the relationship between the sexes? These questions form the primary focus of this novel, a novel that perhaps can be considered a feminist tract, but may also be considered as a good story about an age-old problem.
From a starting point of the mundane world of 1959, when seven women of very different personalities enter college and form a tight bond with each other, this book travels in quiet, incremental stages to a world that is frightening and strange but in all too many ways much too believable. For by the year 2000 (this book was written in 1996), bands of men roam the streets with whips, looking for any woman who is sinful enough to dress in skirts that expose their legs, and such attacks on women are carefully ignored by police, where the Pope allies with Islamic fundamentalists in calling for women's place in the world to be limited and totally subservient to men, and women's colleges are being bombed. For those who say "this could never happen", it should be kept in mind that societies' ideas about what is proper and moral can change, and change drastically, and not just towards a more liberal set of ideas. The return to Islamic fundamentalism in Iran happened quickly, and with the support of good portion of its populace. Still, it is a bit of stretch to imagine such a change in just the four years that Tepper's scenario envisions.
But she has a reason for having such changes happen so quickly - behind her story of normal men and women there is another force, the Alliance, headed by one of the richest men in the world. A man who seems bent on enslaving all the women of the world, with the resources to bend and influence a large number of men, who is planning on an apocalypse with only his chosen favored few as survivors. How the college band of women, now in late middle age, with careers, children, and for some, husbands, work towards unraveling the mystery of why the world is changing so fast forms the heart of the plot. From FBI files to biology laboratories, with murders and judge-buying, Tepper adds believable elements to her story, making the first three- quarters of this book a good read, even if you don't believe that all men are evil or that women have always been downtrodden. Her women characters are well drawn, most especially those of Carolyn Crespin, the main protagonist, Faye as a lesbian sculptor, and Agnes as a nun with doubts. Her male characters, those that we see, are not so good - either impossibly cold and power obsessed, or too acquiescent and thinly drawn.
But the tail end of this book was a let down, as Tepper spins off into not just the realm of plausible science fiction, but into religious fantasy. And in doing so, I think her message about how the sexes should relate to each other gets diluted, as blame for poor treatment of women can be shifted to hormonal drives and/or the influence of a supernatural being. I think this book would have been better if it had stayed within the world of today, and looked a little deeper into the social dynamics driving gender relationships, without call to external forces or scientific breakthroughs to either explain or change such behavior.
Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Potent but dark Millennial prophesy, 9 Nov 2002
By 
Steve Benner "Stonegnome" (Lancaster, UK) - See all my reviews
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In "Gibbon's Decline and Fall" (the joke reveals itself as the book progresses) Sheri Tepper presents her usual dark view of the future of mankind. Set in the year 2000, if it were going to happen, this particular future would be upon us by now, of course. And perhaps, in a way, it is?
The book concerns itself with the perennial battle of the sexes but on a scale far greater than in any of Tepper's other books and with an atmosphere of such immediacy that it is far more discomforting and terrifying than in any of her other stories. And yet while the war is global, she portrays the battles as intimate, personal affairs, as indeed life usual is. As usual for Tepper, the book is peppered with the author's perspicacious observations of the way the world works, as well as countless instances of her wry and acerbic humour. It is nice to see Tepper for once giving us a greater insight into what drives her main protagonists than we usually get, though: a nice touch.
All of the classic Tepper hallmarks are there, of course. This tale is as potent and as gripping as anything she's ever written. Indeed it tightens its grip relentlessly right up to the very last moment. And it's amazing just how many things one doesn't see coming, even though she's left them out in plain view throughout. Great stuff - unless you're even the slightest bit depressed!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EVERY woman should read this book., 20 Jan 2002
By A Customer
I have read all of Sherri S. Tepper's books. This was one one of the best so far, however I should add that most of her books are of a similar standard. This book leaves you wanting more and makes you think of what could be possible. Excellent!
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5.0 out of 5 stars My second copy of this book, 19 Sep 2013
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I've read and re-read this book so often that the first copy has worn out, so I had to get another copy. Sheri Tepper at her best. She's brilliant.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Politics has nothing to do with reality!", 13 Jan 2013
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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It's not often that you find a writer that approaches an intelligent feminist story with such confidence and verve and an almost complete absence of preaching. At first it moves quite slowly, introducing the seven female characters as they start college together. They form a strong bond and continue to meet up every year in one or another's houses for a get-together, to reaffirm their friendship. Only one of them has failed to make every meeting, and she is Aggie, who has become a nun, and then Mother Superior of her Abbey.

This novel has a big agenda, bringing in our evolutionary history, the problem of an overwhelmingly male-dominated religious, political, legal and financial leadership throughout the world. In Tepper's sometimes dark story the United States government is being infiltrated by men who belong to an organisation called The Alliance which is dedicated to a distinct anti-female set of principles. They believe women should not work outside the home and they have publicity arms for their anti-abortion sections and workplace harassment, and other activities. This does not just affect the US, as they have co-opted many Muslim activists and the Pope, if you can believe it, all men who have a similar ambition to ensure women are put back into their `rightful' place.

To be honest I did not find the international links very convincing but if you are reading an alternative history, laced with Science Fiction and Fantasy (yes, it does all three in one book), you have to go with the flow. The plot is a good one, but quite complex: the seven women - now grown up and with families except the nun of course, and one other, Sophy, who has died in mysterious circumstances - have come across evidence about the Alliance which is quite chilling. The anti-feminist angle heats up at this point with one of the women, Carolyn, a lawyer, defending a teenaged girl who has been gang-raped, then arrested for murder when her baby is born dead. The trial makes for an involving and very satisfying side-story. Some of the women have contacts with the FBI (and this book does not demonise men, with Carolyn's husband and other men taking strong supportive roles). Close to the end a stand is taken in the desert, when the women go to find the village where Sophie lived. What they find there is where the fantasy comes in.

This book is not for everyone, but it has a mind-boggling and really exciting finish and I was so engrossed that I sat up reading until my eyes couldn't take any more. If you can suspend disbelief, you will love this book as much as I did. Sheri S Tepper writes with such energy and a true sense of adventure. The ending is terrific and, all in all, this book is brilliant!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but annoying, 2 Dec 2012
This is one of Tepper's classics - in the sense that she is careful not to over-explain early in the plot and to let the reader work out the state of the world slowly, at the same pace as her characters. But it is also very annoyingly hectoring in tone. It reads as a polemic, likely only to be read by the already convinced. It is to her credit that she writes and plots so well that I finished it. If you started to adore Tepper with 'Grass', you might be advised not to bother with this unless you like feminist dystopias rammed down your throat.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Well-written, entertaining, thought-provoking and feminist., 28 April 2002
By A Customer
Some girls at college in the 1950s get together to support each other against male domination and the Decline and Fall Club is formed. The theme of men oppressing women will be familiar to readers of Sheri Tepper. For those who have not read her books before be warned: I am less tolerant to men & more self-assertive for a few days each time I read this book - how will it affect you?
The book is well-written, entertaining and thought-provoking but it is disturbing to see where the author ascribes blame for society's current level of violence.
The weakest part of the book is the inclusion of aliens. There are only small hints of this until we near the end, giving some people the impression that they were a late addition rather than an essential part of the plot.
I love what happens to the baddies (read the book to find out!) and you will be left speculating about what the final decision was.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful - as usual, 22 Dec 1999
By A Customer
I am a long term fan of Sherri - This book discusses the oppression of women through religion in a very thought provoking way. Highlights what could happen if extremsist attitudes pervaded western culture - not exactly pro-religion! Sherri writes in such a way that you don't realise that you are reading feminist literature until you start thinking about the messages. One word of warning - do not read on your honeymoon (I wouldn't let my husband near me!!) Not exactly a 'hate males' book more of a 'disappointed in males' book.
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Gibbon's Decline and Fall
Gibbon's Decline and Fall by Sheri S. Tepper (Hardcover - Aug 1996)
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