We Who Are About To...

by Joanna Russ
Reviewed date: 2003 Jul 2
Rating: 1
170 pages
cover art

First let me say that I did not set out to read this book. I was looking for Joanna Russ's The Female Man, because it's supposed to be an important book in sf. But the used bookstore didn't have a copy, so I settled for another book by the same author.

We Who Are About To... is a survivalist story. The basic plot is nothing original: a handful of random people crash-land on a strange planet. With no hope of escape or rescue, they set out to make a life for themselves--to continue the species, so to speak.

That's where this book turns weird. One of the castaways--from whose point of view the story is told--decides the situation is hopeless and decides that the best thing to do is for them all to die quickly and get it over with. When the others disagree and try to coerce her into joining their bid for survival, she turns crazy-homicidal and starts killing people.

At this point the book is still pretty good, but about halfway through the book she kills off the last remaining survivor, and from there on the book degrades. The reader is subjected to endless pages of the crazed woman's diary, detailing her hallucinations, dreams, and indecipherable philisophical ramblings. All in all, it's a painful experience.

I appreciate the Russ was attempting to communicate that sometimes survival is not an option, and while it is somewhat refreshing to see mass homicide/suicide portrayed in a different light, the book was, plainly and simply, not fun to read because it was not coherently written. I don't read a book to hear the mutterings of an insane and spiteful castaway bent on suicide; I read a book to hear the author tell a compelling story. And this book contains no such story.

I give We Who Are About To... a point for have an intriguing title, but that's it.

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