Grass – Sheri S. Tepper

A science fiction novel, with some great characters, a really detailed and believable planet and homeworld/colony set up. I really liked the details of the other (non-human) colonists of the planet Grass (and its grasses), and the slow revelation of just how dangerous and evil they are. As well as the world-building, Tepper uses proper science in her explanations, making the solution highly believable.

In short, Marjorie and Rodrigo Yrarier are sent to Grass as a diplomatic mission to try to find out why the inhabitants – and the planet itself – appear to be immune from a galaxy-wide plague which is gradually and inexorably spreading, and hopefully to help find a vaccine or cure. Helping them are the intelligent and well-educated inhabitants of Commoner Town, scorned as lower class and inferior citizens by the “aristocrats” on their estancias.

However, the Bons (so-called because their family names begin with the prefix bon) ensconced on their estates, have entered into a strange relationship with the creatures which they call Hippae, helping them to hunt beasts/ people which they call foxen (a perverted idea of hunting foxes with hounds on horseback, except that neither hounds, foxes or horses are anything like their old world equivalent). Since the bons are dogmatic and intensely feudal (and, it is revealed, almost brainwashed by the Hippae and the hunting process itself), and because none of them have contracted plague, they aren’t at all welcoming to the Yrariers’ mission.

Also complicating the mix is the presence of a strident and dogmatic religion, called Sanctity, whose higher echelons wants to find a cure but not necessarily provide it to everyone.

Tepper’s characters are very well drawn and believable, even when unsympathetic, and the dawning horror of Marjorie, in particular, as she discovers just what is going on, is echoed in the reader.

I really enjoyed this, recommend it thoroughly, and will look out for other books by Tepper.

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