Published: 1965 Genres: Science Fiction
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Tama of the Light Country begins when a group of girls is kidnapped from a summer camp in New England. A young journalist goes to investigate, and he discovers more than he bargained for. The girls haven’t just been kidnapped, they’ve been abducted by aliens! And so begins his grand adventure, in which he discovers a story that transcends worlds.
Meanwhile on Mercury… right. Tama of the Light Country was originally serialized around 1930, before we knew anything about Mercury’s climate, or had even landed on the moon, so modern readers will need suspend disbelief for the next bit of the book. On Mercury, women are oppressed. Mercurian men are pretty much like human men, but the women have wings and can fly. And just like on Earth, there’s a long history of patriarchy. In order to control women, men have their wings clipped as soon as they are married. It’s a grisly rite of passage, and they can never fly again. Women naturally hate this, but they go through with it and push their daughters to go through with it because that’s what it means to be an adult in their society. A young woman named Tama decides that there’s more to life, and that she doesn’t want to give up her ability to soar. She leads a rebellion of single girls who refuse to get married, seeking a new path that doesn’t involve the loss of flight. And Tama’s rebellion has the power to shape both her own world and a world far away.
Tama of the Light Country is a delightful sword-and-planet adventure. The story is fast-paced and light-hearted, with a decidedly feminist bent. Seeing the struggle of women who literally have their wings clipped by marriage is a not-so-subtle message about women’s place in society. Even after the passage of the 19th amendment in 1920, women remained economically dependent on men, and this book would have been a push to readers of the time to think about what that means. And that isn’t something I expected to find when I picked up the book, so I was pleasantly surprised.