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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 12 January 2002
The beginning of this book may seem to dwell on seemingly unrelated topics, but they wind together as you progress through it to give a thoroughly satisfaying read.
The third person narrative is used to its fullest extent, unlike some writers Sheri S. Tepper does not focus in on one character but explores the motivations and feelings of many, giving the reader a comprehesive understanding of the events that unfold.
I found myself not caring as deeply about the characters as perhaps I should, but with a storyline such as the one in Grass it was of little concern.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has become dissatisfied with the meaningless and infantile science fiction that has flooded the market today, for it restores all faith in science fiction as a credible genre.
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on 13 February 2010
A brilliant book. I had to read it again, immediately. Well written, fast paced and beautifully unpredictable. It was great to read a Science Fantasy novel so different from others I've read. Sheri Tepper seems to be able to write fantastically individual books. There doesn't seem to be a pattern she follows with the result that every book is a new experience.
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on 5 December 2004
It sounds almost like normal on Grass; a spaceport, big estates for the aristocracy in the countryside, hunting, horses, hounds, quarry........ A quick diplomatic mission in a homelike environment or at least that was what Marjorie's family was expecting. Things rapidly show their true colours when they arrive on Grass complete with their horses, ready to join the social whirl. However, Marjorie has never heard of the rigorous training or seen the unusual clothing the Grassians use, nor has she heard of mounts that demand silence, hounds that may not be looked at and riders maimed or 'disappeared' while hunting the elusive Foxen. The true story on Grass is much darker and far more complicated than one at first imagines, culminating in an almost surreal conclusion which ties all the disparate loose ends together. I really enjoyed this book and I still do ten years later.
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on 12 December 2006
This is superlative fiction, whatever genre you try to put it in. I came to the book knowing nothing of the plot, and that's as it should be - otherwise you miss some of the most interesting surprises of the book. The reviewer who entitles their review 'the moral responsibilities of aliens' (whilst giving a good review, not that I agree with all of it) gives, I feel, far too much of the plot away. So if you're one of those people who, like me, don't like being told the middle of a book before you've even started it, then I have to say be careful reading such detailed reviews. I liken it to being told the plot twist of 'The Sixth Sense' - it's just 'not done', is it chaps?

Tepper always deals with broad moral themes, but you never get the feeling she's preaching. Her characters remain as vivid to me now as when I read the book last (which was quite some time ago). I won't go on, because better reviewers than I can cover this. My enthusiasm for this book renders me a little useless for rational dissection.

And if you, like me, love 'Grass', my next recommendation of Tepper's work would be 'The Family Tree'. And don't read any reviews, because if anyone gives away the big plot twist in THAT one they deserve to have every new book's plot explained to them in detail before they open the covers for the rest of their lives.
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on 7 May 2012
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. At times it felt like I was reading Asimov or Le Guin for the first time and Grass certainly has an old school (in the nicest way possible) feel about it. There are some slightly trite bits but to dwell on those would be pointless since this is a genuinely well written, imaginative and highly enjoyable SF/fantasy classic.
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Grass presents a very interesting alien world, one where the entire planet is covered by grasses of various kinds except for small treed areas, with a very original set of aliens. The Hippae and their associated Hounds are the type of thing that can give you nightmares, an enlarged, horrific parody of horses, capable of mentally controlling those around them, with a totally egocentric and blood-thirsty attitude. And the human society that has formed around the Hippae is also intriguing, somewhat modeled on the South American estancias, but with a strong English manor element, as the humans use the Hippae as mounts for the Hunt, a direct parody of the sport of fox hunting, with the object of the Hunt being the Foxen, a creature never really seen in its entirety, but only glimpsed from the corners of the eyes. The ecology and relationships of the various species of the planet form the major scientific underpinnings of this novel, relationships that are somewhat surprising and very interesting.
Into this world come Marjorie Westriding, her husband Rigo, her children Stella and Tony, Rigo's mistress Eugenie, and the family Catholic priests, sent as ambassadors from Sanctity, the controlling religious body on Earth, to investigate why Grass is the only known planet that does not seem to be infected with a fatal plague that is slowly wiping out humanity. The novel's action is driven by the consequences of family learning about the strange social structures and alien life forms of the planet.
While Marjorie, the main character, if fairly well drawn with a fair amount of depth, most of the other characters are very much stick figures that are supporting spear carriers only. This is a pity, as Rigo, Stella, and the dom Sylvan show intimations of being intriguing people, but they are never portrayed in enough depth to make them come alive. The total cast of characters is fairly large, and at later stages in the book it becomes difficult to remember just who each one is due to their limited portrayal.
Grass is at least partially an investigation of religion, faith, and original sin for both humans and for two different alien races. As such, it invites some comparison with other science fiction works that have dealt with these themes - Walter M. Miller, Jr.'s A Canticle for Leibowitz, Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead, and the one closest in theme to this, James Blish's A Case of Conscience. Unfortunately, Grass does not meet the high level shown by these other books, as the crisis of faith experienced by Marjorie and the Foxen is dealt with somewhat shallowly. There is little deep explication of the problems, ambiguities, and paradoxes that entail from the concept of original sin applying to an alien race that were so well investigated by Blish's work. Marjorie's own changing concept of God from the traditional Catholic picture to one where humans are mere instruments of God's will, a virus that He unleashed to perform a specific action, where individual humans are not known by name to God, is a better formed and portrayed concept, but still not at the depth and emotional level that Canticle for Leibowitz achieved.
This is an ambitious work, with many sub-themes twined around the main one, each of which is deserving of in-depth portrayal. As written, this book is just too short to do justice to either the sub-themes or the main theme, not to mention the need for greater character development. It probably should have been twice its current length to fully develop all of the richness of ideas that Tepper presents here. Still, a very original work, more focused on anthropology and with difficult thematic material than is common in science fiction, items which make this a worthwhile reading experience.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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on 14 August 2015
Initially I would have rated this 3 stars. In retrospect, I do not think I can rate it even that as I cannot imagine ever wanting to read this book again. While there is a dearth of strong female characters in science-fiction, I do not think the lead protagonist here really comes across as especially captivating.
I think the religious elements of this book are superficial and ill-thought out. They seem to be someone's conception of what religion 'could' be like, without any real deep research or deeper significance behind the thoughts. I understand the need for simplicity, but to reduce the world to three core concepts, that of sanctity, Catholicism and 'the other', is misguided, especially if it is trying to ask us deeper questions.
Furthermore, for all the plaudits thrown at it for being 'class-aware', I thought the relationship between the commoners and the aristocracy didn't ring true.
There were some good points, the planet of Grass is a fantastic setting and the opening introduction to the Hippae is incredibly powerful. There are some nice touches also in rather unusually taking the point-of-view of a horse at certain times. Overall however, a mediocre book. With so many excellent books out there, I wouldn't recommend this.
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on 15 August 2015
Thoroughly absorbing. I loved the characters; even the rather prickly and snobbish bons!! I rather detested the horrid husband but loved the little commons people!! I have to say I got rather annoyed with the 'old catholic' priests side of this story and found the scriptural debates rather frustrating because I wanted to find out more about the vanished race!!!
Worth a read !!!
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on 10 November 2012
As a general rule, I lack the attention span for long books and the patience for slow ones. The first 60 pages of Grass, then, didn't exactly bode well: it was all a bit impenetrable for my simple brain, rooted heavily and deeply in the richly-imagined worlds that Tepper has created, with their complex hierarchies and precisely observed social niceties. It came over a bit Jane Austen in the 25th Century (less, thankfully, the comedy robots).

Then, miraculously, wonderfully, it took off. As another reviewer has said, it is a book that builds its way to greatness, adding layer upon layer of both adversity and triumph for all the characters involved until the story has a resistless momentum that carries it effortlessly into some of the more potentially whacked-out directions Tepper chooses to head. I found it simply amazing how fully every aspect of this new world has been considered - each piece is carefully placed, yes, but given meaning and significance and filled with such richness that I simply wanted to bury myself in every single word. This is one book that, frankly, could not have been too long.

It is tiny and intimate, and yet epic and thrilling. A quiet moment of expressed love between two characters is done without any direct speech at all - you're simply told it's happening, which saves it beautifully from triteness - and yet she paints her broad strokes just as effectively: those sweeping plains of grass would be wasted on anything short the sort of large scale chaos introduced, after all. And I personally found the core set of relationships to be excellently drawn - nothing is certain, least of all the survival of anyone, and the pain and complexities and motivations of the vast cast of characters drive things in a fully believable manner.

In short, I cannot praise this highly enough. I was utterly entranced for the too few days I was reading it, and cannot get it out of my head now it's done. For anyone considering giving it a go, do. And stick with it. There are wonders herein that it would be such a shame to miss out on.
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on 4 April 2000
Gripping, well developped, highly imaginative: Tepper combines her usual combination of sensitivity, dark humour and biting insights into the corruptability of humankind. Truly moving. Beware - it's part two of a trilogy (Raising the Stones, Grass, Sideshow), though the first two can be enjoyed in either order.
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