by Gwyneth Jones
|$19.00 (paperback) ||
winner of the 2004 Philip K. Dick Award
Honor List for the 2004 James Tiptree, Jr. Award
a Locus-recommended book
Life is a richly textured fictional biography of the brilliant
Anna Senoz, a scientist who makes a momentous discovery about the X and
Y chromosomes. Anna’s discovery provokes widespread sexual rage and
cruelly impacts her career, her marriage, and her child. Ultimately,
Anna faces a challenge that the practice of science alone cannot meet.
Gwyneth Jones has written the most wonderful day-after-tomorrow novel,
about science, sex, love and its limitations, achievement and its
ramifications. Always surprising, always profound, this is Jones at her
brilliant best and there is no one better.
Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club and Sarah Canary
Exceptionally vivid, this is one of those novels that remind you what
novels at their best can do, evoking a total sense of how we live now.
Beautifully written, and a real page-turner too, sharp-witted and
suspenseful— I read it with a growing sense of exhilaration, certain
I was engaged with a true work of art.
Stanley Robinson, author of the Mars Trilogy and The Years of Rice
This is an ambitious, focused, unblinking troublemaker of a book in which
some ambitious young people meet as university students and then twine and
branch together and apart throughout their adult lives, in a near-future
world of globally contracted professionalism and commercial science. Our
heroine struggles not to make waves about the levels of more or less subtle
sex discrimination she suffers while she pursues, erratically hot and cool,
clues to a genetic shift that is already, quietly, transmuting our current
gender conflicts — and perhaps all of society — into something
new. Her obstreperous friend and alter-ego, meanwhile, pursues explicit
feminist goals as a world media star and flamboyant political activist.
Along the way hearts are broken, people stumble into social experimentation
while just trying to get along, and both allies and enemies spring up in
unlikely places. The flavor is mainstream literary in the meticulous and
dense observation of the details of daily life. But the axis of the story
is a central question of science fiction (as speculative inquiry rather
than adventure-romance): what will it take to end social gender inequity—
and what will it cost?
Handsomely done, a strong and serious exploration, with convincing people
you come to care about and high, very high stakes.
Suzy McKee Charnas, author of The Holdfast Chronicles and The Vampire
Like all of Jones's work, Life demands—and amply
repays—close reading. In addition to writing well about
the thrills and tedium of scientific research, she manages
to be both clinical and lyrical in describing her
characters' exploration of their sensuality.
— New York Times Book
Review, November 14, 2004
The lives of biologist Anna Senoz; her husband, Spence; and their
university friends intertwine as they evolve from idealistic students
into adults with concerns that may affect their world. When Anna
discovers a curious genetic trend with implications for the human sexual
identity and gender relations, she finds herself a pariah among her
colleagues. This latest novel from British author Jones (Divine
Endurance) portrays a near future of commercial globalization in which
gender discrimination persists in subtle ways, forcing biology to find a
way to fight back to equalize the sexes. Beautifully written and
elegantly paced, this story conveys bold speculative concepts through
intensely human characters. Deserving a wide crossover readership, it
is highly recommended for both sf and general fiction collections.
— Library Journal (Starred Review), Sept 15, 2004
Jones' prose is deeply engaging, drawing readers fully into her near-future
setting. Anna is a well-drawn protagonist, one who inhabits a role usually
reserved for male characters in SF: the obsessed scientist, willing to make
big sacrifices to unlock the mysteries of life.
Science Fiction Weekly,
If you are ready for something beyond ray guns and rockets, with a taste of
the real world and a touch of science fiction, try Life; it will take you
to a world you thought you knew.
Life is a novel that poses the quintessential question: what does it mean
to be human in the twenty-first century? Sex, science, the limits of love,
and the struggles of individuals seeking to find meaning in their own
lives, in a future world so close to our own, set the stage for a dramatic
play of human emotions and the crushing press of ruthless events. Highly
— Midwest Book
Review, Vol. 3, No. 11, November 2004
Jones's genius here, however, is in the many layers and textures of
experience she gives us, her recognition that great discoveries, great
science, great art—like great sorrow and tragedy—take place
against the minutiae of our days...This is a novel that strives fully
limn contemporary life, where we began and what we have become.
Sallis, Magazine of Fantasy and Science
Fiction, December 2005
[T]his is a rich, potent, challenging, and original novel which does
exactly what we always demand of the very finest science fiction: it
us think about ourselves, about our future and how we want to be.
Kincaid, Foundation, Autumn 2005
ISBN: 978-0-9746559-2-5 (13 digit)
Publication Date: 2004
paperback 276 pages