I can’t remember exactly how I first heard of Sheri S. Tepper. I must have just run across the book in a library in the early 2000s. I know that the first book of hers that I read was The Family Tree.
I knew immediately that she was going to be a favorite. I was so sad to hear that she died earlier this week.
Her fans fall into two categories. There are those who love her straight sci fi/fantasy books of her early career and there are those who love her more when she got political. I’m a fan of the political. She spent her career working for Planned Parenthood. Her later books are full of forcefully feminist writing with a focus on ecology and freedom from religion. I’ve rarely felt like an author gets me so much. She definitely deserves to be read more.
Where Should You Start Reading Tepper
She wrote a lot of her books in series and you can get very confused if you pick up one of the series books thinking it is a standalone. Trust me, I’ve done it.
By far my favorite of her books is a standalone called The Fresco.
I reread this book every other year or so.
This book is two stories in one. The first story is an alien first contact story. Two aliens approach a Hispanic woman who is in an abusive marriage. They want her to let human leadership know that Earth is being offered membership in a confederation of planets. There is a bit of a rush though. Some predatory species have also discovered Earth and want to hunt humans. The nicer aliens can’t protect the humans if they aren’t part of the confederation. Normally, planets as backwards as Earth aren’t made members. So the aliens are going to help. They will fix Earth so it is Neighborly enough to be approved for membership – whether humans want to be Neighborly or not.
The second story is happening on the aliens’ homeworld. Their species’ mandate to be ambassadors of good in the universe is based on their religion. Their precepts were drawn on a fresco. Over time the fresco has gotten so dirty that the original images can’t be seen. Everyone relies on commentaries that explain what the paintings are. The commentaries forbid cleaning of the fresco because it is too holy. Now a rebel group has taken control of the fresco and will be cleaning it. What if what is painted is different than the commentaries that they have based their society on?
The first contact story is hilarious! I want this to happen so much. The aliens come in, look around, realize that politicians are just going to argue, and so the aliens just decide to fix it all themselves. Their solutions are brilliant and totally unexpected.
My favorite of her series is the Arbai Trilogy. This one gets better as it goes along. I wasn’t a huge fan of the first book, Grass. I may reread it now that I know the rest and see if I like it better.
Have you ever read her books? What is your favorite?