Monday, October 24, 2011

He, She, and It, by Marge Piercy

Marge Piercy's He, She, and It tells parallel stories about two not-quite-human creatures and their struggles to get along in the world. The main story takes place in a medium-future world devastated by ecological catastrophe. Shira grew up in a small Kibbutz in the desert, and when her husband abducts her child she leaves the corporate enclave they've been working in and returns home, where she developes a relationship with Yod, a cyborg invented to protect the town. The backstory, told by her grandmother in intercalary chapters, is about a rabbi in the Prague ghetto 400 years ago who raises a golem to protect his community. Both of the simulacra learn to be people and to participate more fully in their communities.

There are many interesting facets interwoven quite well in the story. Shira is a high-tech worker, and she and her companions infiltrate the corporate data bases through a three-day experiential interface in which they are attacked and have a narrow escape. The Rabbi and the golem give us a glimpse of oppressed Jews and what they had to do to get enough accomomdation from the local rulers to enable them to survive the occasional pogrom and the annual depredations of the local rabble-rousers. There is politics, intrigue, outright battles, and exploration of the devastated cities where society's cast-offs live.

The relationship between Shira and Yod develops slowly, and is complicated by interactions with old sweethearts, eccentric inventors, and both Shira's mother and grandmother. The women dominate the front story, and are the most fleshed out of the characters, not counting Yod himself. The backstory focuses on the golem and the plight of the Ghetto's populace. Both stories were fast-paced and engaging. All the focal characters were strong positive people and provided a good setting for the surrounding exploration of whether and what kinds of rights the two artificial creatures should have. Very enjoyable.