FICTION

The Book of Joan

Harper Apr. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9780062383273. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062383297. F
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OrangeReviewStarYuknavitch's latest book (after The Small Backs of Children) opens as the quintessential postapocalyptic dystopian nightmare. Life on Earth has been extinguished, and the survivors eke out an existence in the orbital habitat known as CIEL. These survivors, as the price of their entrance, get to live only 50 years. Forty-nine-year-old Christine tells the story of how the martyred hero Joan opposed the world domination of maniacal leader Jean de Men, which brought about the geo-catastrophe. The surviving humans have lost their hair, skin color, and sexual organs and have also developed a literary tradition of electrosurgical branding on skin grafts, of which Christine is a virtuoso. After news arrives that Joan, publicly executed years ago, is still alive on the wasted earth, the novel shifts to Joan's point of view: she has supernatural powers and can even raise the dead, but only for a day. We learn her life story and watch as she joins with other rogue humans, regains power and influence, and unites with Christine in CIEL to combat evil.
VERDICT This ambitious novel encompasses a wide canvas to spin a captivating commentary on the hubris of humanity. An interesting blend of posthuman literary body politics and paranormal ecological transmutation; highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 11/17/16.]

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