Grass - Sheri S. Tepper 'tis the season...

13 TALES OF TERROR: BOOK 4

once upon a time there was a delightful young story named Grass by Sheri S. Tepper. this story seemed to know exactly what i was longing for: Horror in Space! and so she provided it to me. a fascinating planet full of strange multi-colored grass, bizarre fauna, the ruins of an alien civilization. a backdrop based around a particularly esoteric and semi-totalitarian theocracy. an expertly portrayed and atypical heroine who felt alive and real (and who rather reminded me of Deborah Kerr in her various classy roles). a perfect introduction to the planet's aristocrats, well-rendered through the eyes of an uncomfortable young lady on her first foxhunt. a foxhunt that is not a foxhunt, but something else entirely - something inexplicable, something horrible. a feeling of claustrophobia - but, uniquely, a claustrophobia based on an entire planet, one filled with huge living spaces and wide, windy open ranges. an atrocious plague spreading like wildfire from planet to planet. the unsettling sound of beasts stamping out a threatening dance from not-so-distant caverns. my gosh, those bizarre fauna! the various moments portraying them gazing silently and malevolently at characters, up close and even more eerily in the distant grasses... such brilliantly sinister tableaux! and those foxhunts!

this story was full of twisted emotions, strained familial relations, ambiguous motivations, intriguing mysteries, and a constant yet subtle sense of increasing dread. how enchanting! wonderful chills ensued from this delightful story. i looked on Grass by Sheri S. Tepper as the child i've never had but always wanted. a sort of Wednesday Adams-Monday. i was filled with pleasure at the sight of her.

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alas, the child grew up. somewhere around page 200, i think. that winsome feeling of terror just on the horizon, that sweet sense of horror lurking just around the corner, all the subtlety and strange wonder... vanished. it was replaced by confusing xenobiology, a didactic chemistry lecture, a ham-handed coincidence (oops, that extremely important and provocative letter just dropped out of that villain's pocket!), increasingly two-dimensional characters, an extremely lame vision of God, creepy alien sex (and not the good kind), the idea that a rebellious daughter is better off with her mind wiped clean, and repetitious obsessiveness with original sin & what makes a good wife & who is in love with who now and why and why won't they. a precocious child grew into a distinctly tedious adult.

but i will try to remember that child! because the first half or so of this book was awesome.