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Sheri S. Tepper's "A Plague of Angels" dates from 1993 and it continues the theme that first emerged in this author's writings in 1984, with "The True Game", and developed through that book's second set of prequels, "The Jinian Chronicles", and that has continued in recent years with books such as "The Visitor". All of these feature an imagined distant future in which mankind (or what is left of it) leads an unsettling, often strange existence, manipulated or controlled by some alien/planetary über-power. The interventions of these agents of some higher authority have usually been precipitated or enabled by the actions (usually mis-deeds) of long-dead previous generations of Man (the race) and whilst we are usually led towards a recognition of our own times, many of the sins, particularly of men (the gender) are equally recognisable as pertaining in almost all ages. As a result, Tepper's writings are often branded (one might almost say dismissed) as falling within the genre of feminist science fiction. Which sadly is often to miss the point.

"A Plague of Angels" is set in a land which is clearly the remains of southwest/central North America many years after some global catastrophe has rearranged continental coast-lines, altered climates, and thrown the remnants of civilisation back into some Dark Age. The bulk of humanity supposedly departed for some distant and unknown future among the stars many generations previously; what remains of city life is now contained either within heavily-secured high-tech Edger enclaves, or else given over entirely to drug-fuelled power-struggles between various warring Ganger groups, whose daily street battles are broadcast routinely to public entertainment screens as some kind of obscene game-show. Outside of the cities, scattered farmers do their best to eek out an existence from the land, providing produce for the cities, whilst a network of Archetypal Villages preserve the full range of human archetypes, such as Oracle, Orphan and Hero, the latter gainfully employed ridding the land of the myriad mythical beasts and monsters which have mysteriously returned to Earth to menace the population. Add in the extra threat to the remaining human population of widespread and rampant sexually transmitted immune deficiency diseases, plus the machinations of a handful of in-bred groups inhabiting a mysterious fortress known as the Place of Power and squabbling over plans to complete and fly a shuttle to the ruins of a former Moon-based mining colony and you will get some idea of the extraordinary range and complexity of notions that Sheri Tepper routinely throws into her books.

Given the complexity and variety of the mix along the way, coupled with her propensity for misdirecting the reader at almost every turn, it is scarcely surprising that many accuse Tepper of spoiling her books with seemingly unsatisfying endings. And certainly if you like endings where everything is neatly wrapped up and brought to a solid conclusion, then Tepper will almost invariably leave you disappointed at the end. For if her books teach anything it is that life rarely provides nice neat endings. The world turns endlessly; times change; crises come and eventually pass; some people survive them, others do not. But maybe, just maybe, if we all acted a little differently, they wouldn't arise at all.
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on 1 November 2011
It is hard to describe this book, honestly it is just one of those books you have to read to understand. I have read a Tepper book before, and she does have a way to build a story.

This starts as fantasy, but nothing is as it seems. No it is this strange mix of fantasy and sci-fi and Tepper does it so well. She mixes things up and little by little I get to understand this world. Is it Earth? Is it a new planet? Well, I will not tell you that, read and see. What I can tell you is that it is a world that got destroyed by war, by stupidity, by humans, what else. Some left for another planet and those left behind struggled to get by. In the countryside there are villages and farmers. In the cities gangs rule with weapons. In Archetypal villages archetypes live; oracles, prophets, heroes, princesses, witches. Why? To save the rest from those who might cause trouble. There is also Edgers who live behinds walls and have technology, and the place of power where Families rule and use androids. But there are also ogres and dragons in the forest. Like I said, nothing is what it seems.

There you go, a world so strange, but still very real. There are reasons for everything and we get to know why things are like they are. Books are burned if they are older than 50 years, because if you can't read about the past, you can't remember it and you can't go to war over silly things. There are people out there trying to save nature. And while I read I kept wondering what, and how. The clues are there and it was so fun finding out more. I love a well created world and that it sure is.

About the story then. Well a young man leaves for the city and becomes a ganger. And orphan is taken to an archetypal village and at the place of power a woman wants just that, power, and to go to the stars. These stories are all connected. I liked Abasio, the boy who leaves for the city. He knows the cities are bad, his own mum had been a gangers concubine and fled. But still he leaves. Orphan is a mystery, and someone is out after her. But she is just a sweet girl. And then there are others that they meet, good people, and bad people.

I liked it, it was a freaky book, in a good way. I love fantasy so of course I was all over that angle, and sci-fi is fun too. This mix here, more fantasy than sci-fi is another great mix. There is technology, just not much, or used that much. Therefore it makes it the more interesting. She also has a way to keep you interested, because you can't see anything coming.

What to call this book then? Post-apocalyptic, dystopia, fantasy, sci-fi, your call. Whatever suits you. And that is also its strong side, it can be something for everyone.

I do recommend it if you want to try something different. Tepper is a master storyteller and she will keep on surprising you.
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on 2 January 2016
Sheri Tepper's books can be read again and again. She goes from strength to strength
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on 23 November 2014
Up to her normal A class stories.
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on 25 January 2004
I very much enjoyed the first half of this book, that is, I loved learning about the world that Tepper created and was thrilled to know about the different characters and their relations. I didn't like the main character, though, the Orphan, because I never got to feel her from the "inside"; I just saw her through the other characters' motivations to relate to her,and I never really felt what drove her to act as she did.Nevertheless, the most unsatisfactory part of this novel was its ending; it is as if the author got tired of the story and decided to end it no matter how, leaving the readers with too many questions.
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on 10 September 2014
sad ending!
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