Electric Forest by Tanith Lee (book review).

One of the problems with choosing from the plethora of books on offer is which one. Should it be something a friend with similar tastes has recommended, a new author you’ve not yet sampled or one of the ‘classics’. The term ‘classic’ is itself a minefield. Younger readers tend to think of them as on a par with those boring books they had to read at school.

If not, the author must be dead if the book is a classic. The true meaning of the term ‘classic’ must be a book that will stand the test of time, which will seem as fresh when read now as it was when first published. If that is the case, many of the works of the late Tanith Lee must qualify.

Electric Forest’ was first published in 1979 and, as far as the SF content is concerned, it could have been written yesterday. This book deals with cutting edge science and raises ethical questions.

On the planet of Indigo, genetic engineering has enabled the population to select the characteristics the parents want for their offspring. As a result, everyone is beautiful and intelligent. A perfect population. Occasionally, though, an unplanned pregnancy happens. The child will be stigmatised by not having the perfection of form of its peers. Magdala Cled is doubly unlucky in that she is deformed and ugly. Her existence is miserable but she does have a job, albeit, a lowly one.

She is surprised when she is sought out and made an offer she couldn’t refuse. Claudio Loro says he is able to transfer her consciousness into a perfect body. All she will need to do is follow his instructions and her original body can be maintained in a specially constructed tank. She is being given everything she desires so she doesn’t questions his motives and accepts that it is part of an experiment.

It is, but not the one she thinks. Claudio has constructed the artificial body for Magdala in the likeness of a scientist, Christophine del Jan. He expects Magdala to impersonate her.

Though short compared to many of today’s publications, this is a beautifully constructed novel with unexpected plot twists as the motives of the characters unravels.

This may not yet be designated as a classic, but it has all the hallmarks of SF that transcends the period in which it was written. If, as a reader, you are unfamiliar with the work of Tanith Lee, ‘Electric Forest’ is a good place to start.

Pauline Morgan

August 2019

(pub: DAW, New York, 2019.183 page paperback. Price: $ 7.99 (US), $10.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7564-1116-9)

check out website: www.penguin.com/publishers/daw/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.