The Healer's Garden
by Nina Pierce, futuristic (2007)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.95, ISBN 978-1-59578-411-7
I worry at first that The Healer's Garden is going to be a very loaded story. The premise is about how a woman in a community that forbids straight relationship falls in love with a guy. This is something that can easily get the author in trouble with some readers if she's not careful, but fortunately Ms Pierce's treatment of a potentially controversial storyline is, in my opinion, a very reasonable one as she stresses that it's not "straight" or "gay" that is "right", it's how we all need to live peacefully with each other.
It's 2172. I believe we are still on Earth in the future because a place called Lexington is mentioned here. Anyway, Jahara Hriznek is a healer in a village called Valhena. She plans to undergo the commitment ceremony with a woman named Merenith. You see, in this time, women rule the country and men are nothing more than necessary evils using for breeding purposes. Jahara plans to head over to the place called the Garden of Serenity, where she'll have sex with a Breeder guy in order to get a kid. Don't ask me why we can't use in-vitro fertilization methods if these women all act as if having sex with a guy and then spending months as an "incubator" are such an unpleasant notion. Maybe the country is run by pro-life Christian fundamentalist lesbians. After some biological seminars with the expert Breeder called Brenimyn, however, to the point that Jahara actually faints from her orgasm from the first shag (no, really), she's changing her tune about her tuna diet.
Yes, I know, this can be really bad, but Ms Pierce isn't like that. I like how Merenith is given a dignified treatment here. Yes, the poor dear is stuck with a cheating girlfriend who pulls an Anne Heche on her, but Ms Pierce treats Merenith's character here with respect. Merenith comes off even more human than Jahara here, come to think of it. Poor Brenimyn doesn't get much character development apart from the Fabio Who Breeds Women hunk, but Jahara does get some decent depths here as Ms Pierce tries to demonstrate why Jahara is falling in love with Brenimyn instead of merely having some lusty feelings for him. This allows me to have a glimpse into how Jahara feels and thinks. Unfortunately, the author doesn't quite succeed in convincing me that the two are in love as she tends to gloss over the time spent outside the bedroom between the two characters.
Indeed, perhaps a few dozen more pages could have improved this story better. This is a full-length novel, but at the same time, Ms Pierce's world building remains vague and nondescript. The story is actually interesting to me, mind you, especially when the authorities start going after Brenimyn and Jahara for breaking what they believe is the natural world order with women on top. It's just that I wish there are more details in the setting and more deeper characterization. The Healer's Garden remains a somewhat superficial read due to this, but still, at the end of the day I find this an interesting and entertaining well-written story.
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