The Shore of Women

Pamela Sargent
The Shore of Women Cover

The Shore of Women


While on the surface, this novel has an engaging story and a dramatic, emotional climax, it is at the same time tragically flawed in its world building and social structure.

The essential reality is there has been a world holocaust and women have expelled the violent and oppressive men from their sanctuaries. It is now many generations later, and the women, isolated in their fortified ultra-modern enclaves, exist completely separate from men, who have reverted to stone age barbarians with no ability to progress, invent or develop further.

Well, not completely separate from men, as the women need sperm to reproduce, so they have concocted this complex ritual to convince the barbarous savages they will be blessed if they worshp women at shrines where they will have sperm extracted from them to keep the women from dying out.

At first, this seems like it might make sense, but the further the reader progresses, the more nonsensical the entire world becomes. Why have men reverted to stone age barbarism, unable to create even the most primitive devices, cultivate crops, develop symbolic communication (like writing)? It is never explained, nor does the author seem to care that one sex is able to progress and stagnate at an advanced level, while the other regresses and stagnates at a far lower level.

And as far as women needing male sperm, I will simply say: parthenogenesis. I invite the reader to look that up. Clearly the author was ignorant of reproductive science in the 20th century.

It gets worse. The male society is by default a homosexual one, with rare exceptions for sperm extraction. At one point, the lead male character becomes the lover of an exiled woman, and abandons all interest in homosexual stimulation. This flies in the face of centuries of acculturation by the savage male society, and it implies that one only need to have a taste of heterosexual pleasure with a woman and one will abandon maile sexual experience without any thought or effort.

This is simply homophobia writ large through much of the book. It pollutes the entire story and demeans the author. The author even uses this homophobic fallacy to create a crisis in the men's world between the male protagonist and another young male, a crisis that is a driivng point in the story, but which makes no sense in the context of a long standing homosexual culture.

The author goes to great pains to state that the women no longer control vast swaths of the world, but somehow they are supposed to be able to keep the men trapped in the stone age by brutal mass murder of 'upstarts' by using airships with death rays. In the author's view, the primitive idiots that are men will see these exterminations as a loss of favor from their goddess. I submit that enough of these extermination raids will result in anger, rebellion and denial of the goddess completely. They might even start destroying shrines in response.

But these are only several of the many faults in this book. I'll cover one of the less problematic ones: the structure of the narrative. In the first part of the book, the story is told in alternating first person accounts, which makes good sense as the two characters are completely separated.

However, when the two main characters are constantly in contact with eiach other, the alternating first person chapters are clumsy at best and serve mainly to slow down the progress of the story. Insteead of continuing to write in multiple first person, the author would have served the story better to revert to the third person for the second part of the story and forego the pointless separation of viewpoints into alternating chapters. It isn't bad or wrong so much as pointless.

In the end, this story comes off as a sophomoic effort written with great passion and feminist fervor, but with little or no editing or research except to correct spelling and continuity errors. Best to read it if you don't fear injuring yourself as you continually roll your eyes.

Or maybe the author just wants to show the reader what she thinks will happen if women rule the world instead of men.