With the critically acclaimed novels The Gate To Women's Country, Raising The Stones, and the Hugo-nominated Grass, Sheri Tepper has established herself as one of the major science fiction writers of out Time. In Beauty, she broadens her territory even further, with a novel that evokes all the richness of fairy tale and fable. Drawing on the wellspring of tales such as "Sleeping Beauty," Beauty is a moving novel of love and loss, hope and despair, magic and nature. Set against a backdrop both enchanted and frightening, the story begins with a wicked aunt's curse that will afflict a young woman named Beauty on her sixteenth birthday. Though Beauty is able to sidestep tragedy, she soon finds herself embarked on an adventure of vast consequences. For it becomes clear that the enchanted places of this fantastic world--a place not unlike our own--are in danger and must be saved before it is too late.
The latest from the talented Tepper ( The Gate to Women's Country ) is many things: a fantasy of manners, a dystopian science fiction tale, a time-travel story and an eco-morality play. Still more impressive is the evolution of the narrator and title character, whom we follow for a century of life (ages 16 to 116) as she matures gradually and subtly from a pouty, slightly spoiled daughter of a duke to a wise old woman. Retelling various fairy tales, Tepper strips away each story's gloss. Sleeping Beauty's sleep continues endlessly, prince notwithstanding; Cinderella is as heartless and nasty to her ugly stepsisters as they are to her; and Snow White is a blond bimbo, while the dwarfs are a querulous collection of Basque brothers. Tepper manages to maintain interest, style and theme throughout these disparate elements, and she consistently sniffs out the ugly (e.g., the storybook land of Chinanga, which has all the facets of a fairyland but is an extremely boring place to live). Despite an often depressing worldview, this is a beautiful book from one of the genre's best writers.