Thursday, November 24, 2011

Tritcheon Hash - Sue Lange

I first noticed Book View Cafe in 2008, as one of the more interesting attempts to deal with the upheaval the introductions of large numbers of e-books in the market is causing. It is a consortium of authors that publishes backlist works to which the authors have retained the rights for e-books or which are out of print. Some new work has recently appeared in their catalogue as well. Book View Cafe offers a range of high quality, reasonably priced, DRM-free e-books in multiple genres of which the largest possible share go to the author. It's a project worth checking out. Tritcheon Hash by Sue Lange is one of those books that has appeared in a dead tree variation before. The original publication is by Metropolis Ink in 2003 and some paperbacks of this edition may still be floating around. I read the e-book, a copy of which was provided to me by the author.

A thousand years from now, the universe looks a lot different. Centuries ago, women have decided they've had enough of testosterone driven violence and decided to pack up and leave. Apart form the occasional baby exchange, contact between the two halves of humanity is non-existent and in general, the galaxy likes that just fine. The women have built a cosy, stable society on a planet far away from earth, leaving the men to wallow in the mess they made of the planet. Recently however, men have requested reunification and people on both sides are beginning to wonder if, perhaps, this might be a good idea.

Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Lange has taking this idea quite literally by separating the sexes. Tritcheon Hash is a satire. It pokes fun at all manner of gender stereotypes in very interesting ways. The long separation seems to have made both sexes regress to the point in your life where boys/girls are stupid and you'd rather have nothing to do with them. Most people grow out of this in our world but in this novel, such behaviour has been elevated to policy, even law. It makes for a whole lot of little, often very childish details that drive the message home that members of the other sex are not in fact alien beings. One fine example of this is Tritch reaction to seeing a man's domicile:
The place was orderly—surprisingly so, in fact. No socks draped on heat disseminators, no dirty underwear hung on the back of a chair. Last week’s beer-bash flotsam was not floating about in knee-deep water. The room appeared not only neat, but also tastefully decorated: curtains matched throw pillows, furniture covers had been chosen in stylish auxiliary colors, and a big rug tied everything together. No animal heads were mounted anywhere.

Tritcheon having a close look at living conditions on Earth - Chapter 7

Another way Lange plays with perceptions genre is with her main character. As you will probably have guessed, Tritcheon Hash or Tritch for short, is a female fighter pilot. Although nobody in the female planet is quite sure what they actually need an army for, a small force does exist. Tritch is a woman who can fly just about anything currently in use (or to put it in terms more suitable to our society, she's got parallel parking down to a T). This aptitude for piloting is far for the only characteristic that are often perceived as 'male'. She is a risk-taker, a bit of an adrenaline junkie,  impatient with safety protocols and brash in her communication with people around her, including her superiors.

Language is another tool Lange uses to great effect to emphasize the separation between the sexes. Everything to do with male-female relationships and procreation is described in highly technical terms (a penis for instance, is referred to as appendage and the function of it,  is a bit of a mystery to most women), adding to the comical effect of many of these passages. Tritch herself, although fairly direct in her communication, uses a lot of slang, which can be quite challenging to the second language reader. It also produces some very funny misunderstandings when talking to the men in the book.

The novel does not float entirely on satire. Although a lot the novel is a bit over the top, another part deals with the effects of the mission Tritch is sent on and the trouble her marriage is in. The tragedy and sense of loss that Lange works into this character make this story into something more than a light funny read. Within the constraints of her somewhat over the top setting, the author manages to create a character of surprising depth. Balancing these two aspects of the story must have been a challenging bit of writing.

After finishing Tritcheon Hash one of my first thoughts about it was that it is probably a love-it-or-hate-it book. Not all readers will appreciate the satire or be able to see past the more illogical aspects of Lange's creation. Technologically it can't be too hard to make sure no male babies are born for instance, but no rationale is given for not just phasing out men altogether. That kind of logic is not what the novel is aiming for. It is meant to show how silly some of our preconceptions about the genders really are and it manages to do so without making the the main character into a caricature. That, as far as I am concerned, makes it a fine piece of writing.

Book Details
Title: Tritcheon Hash
Author: Sue Lange
Publisher: Book View Cafe
Pages: 184
Year: 2011
Language: English
Format: E-book
ISBN: 978-1-61138-103-0
First published: 2003

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