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The Margarets by Sheri S. Tepper

01/07/2009. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy The Margarets in the USA - or Buy The Margarets in the UK

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pub: Gollancz. 505 page enlarged paperback. Price: 12.99 (UK only). ISBN: 978-0-575-08046-1 508 page enlarged paperback. Price: 7.99 (UK only). ISBN: 978-0-575-08348-6.

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'The Margarets' is an odd book. Lately, I've commented where I've become confused with a book's plot, I've often turned to the backcover to put me back on track. Oddly, I found the backcover at odds with the contents this time.

Let me explain. The backcover describes the story as the Margarets as the fantasy creation of a disposed girl returned to Earth from Phobus. The book describes them, as this shouldn't count as a spoiler, as them being clones spread across the galaxy getting a variety of experiences. Confused? Me, too. There is nothing in the story to suggest that they are other than as much as can be asserted as possible clones although the way the story abruptly ends, maybe the publishers know more about what is going to happen next.

Looking at the checklist of planets and aliens and people at the beginning to this book you are either going to be awestruck at the diversity of cultures in this book or wondering how author Sherri Tepper is going to pull it off. Saying that, I only referenced it a couple times at the start of the book as Tepper does succeed in keeping things separate until about half-way and then there's a little dragging but that's more in the why is nothing moving along sufficiently to see where all their separate lives are leading to. None of this is helped when she circumnavigates the emotional impact when particular characters have died and moved away from the event as if it's no longer important when you would have thought all the story detail of a particular 'Margaret' would have meant it being covered. At just over five hundred pages, one could surmise that a little judicial cutting was made to tighten up and something was lost there.

In many respects, the seven Margarets could be seen as a blended mosaic of short stories as we follow their various lives either as bonded slaves or servants in alien cultures varying only in as far as the varied trust they are given. There's enough variety not to confuse them but there's so much that, as I mentioned above, it does start to drag. Things are beginning to draw together at the end, although the purpose isn't very clear and one would suspect that there has to be a sequel in the works.

I can't even really pick a Margaret thread as a particular favourite. Depending on your perspective, they are either story threads are too well-balanced or you're not expected to like one over another. You're moved along far too rapidly to develop a preference or want to see what happens next.

The reality is certainly intriguing and enough alien species are concerned about human survival over planetary collapse if not how they achieve it. Hopefully, Tepper will ensure 'The Margarets' is the beginning to all of this.

GF Willmetts

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