SideShow by Sheri S. Tepper. Review by Andrea Johnson
This is the last book in a loosely held together series that takes place in a futuristic universe. It is not required to read the books in order, or even to read all of them. However, your enjoyment of this book will increase with the reading of Raising the Stones, the first book in the series.
The first characters we meet in SideShow are Betran and Nela, a pair of siamese twins born on earth in the 1990's, who after the death/abandonment of their parents, end up, you guessed it, as freaks in a circus sideshow. After activating a device given to them by aliens from the future, they fall through a wormhole "Door," ending up on the planet Elsewhere, approximately 10,000 years in the future. The planet Elsewhere is the last planet in the universe unaffected by the Hobbs Land Gods. Elsewhere was colonized by a group of university professors looking to escape the Hobbs Land Gods and answer the ultimate question: "what is the ultimate destiny of man?"
All the people of Elsewhere fear the Hobbs Land Gods like nothing else. They believe the Hobbs Land Gods enslave you, and make everyone alike, killing diversity everywhere. On Elsewhere, diversity is the law. Every group of refugees running from the Hobbs Land Gods to Elsewhere were given their own province, where all their cultural rules are maintained. If the rules call for human sacrifice, sexual or class inequality, child abandonment, etc, those rules will be followed and enforced, because diversity must be enforced and promoted. Diversity is the opposite of the Hobbs Land Gods. Bertran and Nela end up entangled in the adventures of the Diversity Enforcers: Fringe, Danivon, and Curvis, and two mysterious old people, Jory and Asner. Their quest will force them to face a version of the Hobbs Land Gods, and answer the ultimate question.
As you can see, the plot of this book has many twists and turns, characters and concepts. I can't even begin to describe them all. Tepper takes the laws and regulations of today, and projects them to the ultimate apex, i.e. she asks what if these rules were enforced to the nth degree? Her characters are unhappy people, looking for their own answers, their own destinies. For those of you who loved the Dune series because of how it influenced your life choices, of how it brought you closer to finding who you were, I think this book will move you in similar ways.
Andrea Johnson lives in beautiful southwestern Michigan with her husband, and spends as much time as possible reading and enjoying science fiction and other speculative fiction. She is an administrator and book reviewer at Worm's Sci Fi Haven and an official reviewer at Multiverse.