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Can You Name This Story? (Part 34)

Here’s another Name That Story challenge for our readers, sent in by another reader looking for the title of a story read long ago. In fact – this time you get 2 challenges from the same reader!

Do any of you out there know the titles to these stories?

  1. Probably from the 70’s or 80’s, a novel (I think) of typical sci-fi bildungsroman, with teens on a starship training for some survival test of being dropped on a planet. It’s NOT Tunnel in the Sky or Rite of Passage, but in a similar vein. In this particular story, part of the preparation for the final survival test involves a section of the spaceship set up as a wilderness testing ground, with a “race” (or just recording of the order in which people complete the task) determining some benefit (order of going? ability to choose partners?) in the final test. The protagonist does well in this “pre-test” by virtue of being the only one (or one of the only team of 2, perhaps) to swim across some body of water rather than going around it.
  2. From the late 80’s or 90’s, a short novel that may not even have been billed as science fiction. It starts with a group of women held prisoner by a group of men, with IIRC no recollection of any previous life. The men are distant figures who don’t really interact or seem to have individual identities, just wielding some whip-like/prodlike devices. Something strange happens – which we eventually are led to believe is some very wide scale catastrophe or evacuation – and the women are able to leave the prison. The bulk of the novel addresses the women’s trek to find a suitable place to live (and find survival resources) and way to live with each other. The ending scene is the narrator, for some reason having ended up alone, in what seems to be a fallout shelter/bunker that she’s discovered, with a limited supply of food and water (and, IIRC, some books? Or just the paper to write on?). Most importantly, the feeling of the story is surreal and mythical; I am not sure but feel like we didn’t even get the names of the women in the group, or certainly not much about them; but the descriptions of place (prison, route of the women, the bunker in the last page or two) is dreamlike and undetailed. A feeling similar to much of “The Road”, in that there isn’t much discussion of what led to the current situation, and pretty scant details about the characters other than through direct observation of words and actions of a bunch of people that don’t talk much about themselves.

– Barry W.

Can you name this story?

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

11 Comments on Can You Name This Story? (Part 34)

  1. #1 sounds an awful lot like EARTHSEED by Pamela Sargent – pubbed in 1983 and reprinted in 2012

  2. This is of no help at all — I remember the second book, but not its title. I read it as a library book, forgot the title, asked online if anyone remembered the description, had it identified and tracked it down, but I’ve forgotten the title *again*. I’ll try to recall it…

  3. Stevo Darkly // May 12, 2014 at 8:42 pm //

    This is a very long shot, but for some reason when I read the description of the second book, the title of a book called _Motherlines_ popped into my head. This is a book that I frequently ran across in the library as a kid, and I was sometimes on the verge of reading it, but never did.

    Looking up that book, I don’t think it’s the one you’re looking for — but I did learn that_Motherlines_ is sequel to a book called _Walk to the End of the World_ by Suzy McKee Charnas. And the latter sounds vaguely similar to the second book you describe … maybe. Except it was from 1974, not the 1980s-90s. Just throwing it out there.

  4. Barry W // May 13, 2014 at 2:33 am //

    Hmmm…. all of the books mentioned look very interesting, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet….

    For #1, Earthseed sounds interesting, but is definitely not it. The general starship “society” was pretty “normal”, and the survival test was a brief episode rather than the focus of the book. Oh!

    In #2, the group of women really don’t interact at all with any other humans. Everyone else is mysteriously gone. And they’re pretty much wandering through a dreamlike landscape with no sign of other humans or of any civilization past or present. I think the name of the book was something poetic, and for some reason I imagine the word “rose” in it… or maybe not. And, I have a feeling the author’s name was French, and the book may even have been translated. Sarah, yes, there’s something that makes the title of this book inherently unmemorable!

  5. I haven’t read it (found it through a long Google trail), but #2 sounds very much like *I Who Have Never Known Men* by Jacqueline Harpman. It’s Belgian, translated from French, and the plot matches. It also sounds like an interesting read, so thanks for turning me on to it!

    • Barry Werger // May 13, 2014 at 12:41 pm //

      Adi, yes, that’s it (#2)! I Who Have Never Known Men. Thank you!

      I’m glad to see now that this is the first of Harpman’s works to be translated, and that there are others! I’m eager to get started on them!

    • Thanks, I Who Have Never Known Men was it exactly! It’s not the most forgettable title ever, but has done the disappearing act from my memory twice now. *sigh*

  6. Barry Werger // May 13, 2014 at 12:46 pm //

    Adi, can you recall the keys to your successful Google search? I’m just curious, as I generally have good results in searching, but this one has stymied me for a long time!

    • So, looking back at my history, I tried a *ton* of semi-aimless searches, but one of them was “feminist post apocalyptic novels.” That led me to an Amazon list called “Post-apocalyptic sci-fi with feminist/lesbian themes,” and it was on the list.

      • Barry W. // May 13, 2014 at 5:40 pm //

        Haha! I went through five or so similar lists, but didn’t find this book and gave up on that approach. Thanks!

  7. Barry W // May 26, 2014 at 5:19 am //

    Nothing for number 1? Sniff.

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